Security guards

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Security guards generally have no more legal power than the average citizen, except:

  • when they are sworn in as special constables, then they have some extra arrest powers; and
  • when there is some extra power under the university rules.

There is no common theme on this issue in university rules across the nation. There may also be questions around how these extra powers are conferred.

Prescribed officers including security guards usually have power to give directions to students, such as ordering you to leave the campus. Such directions, if disobeyed, can lead to discipline proceedings for students enrolled at the relevant campus and the university’s staff members bringing police on campus with the possibility of trespass proceedings being initiated.

Members of the Victoria Police have the power to demand identification if there is a reasonable suspicion of a person having committed an offence. Universities may alter their by-laws to enable security guards and other staff members to demand identification. If a student of that university campus refuses to supply identification on demand, this could form the basis for a misconduct charge. If the challenged person is not a student of the campus and does not produce identification then this could be grounds for the police to be called in and they may have the power to request the name and address of that person.

A security guard is never allowed to search you or your property, unless you consent to it. Do not give consent to any security guard to do this. If a security guard does carry out a search without consent, you may pursue criminal and/or civil action. Police may not have the power to search you on university grounds if these grounds are not considered a “public place”, as police usually need a warrant to conduct a search on private property.

Also see University status

Use of force
Security guards, in certain circumstances, can legally arrest you. They must inform you of the reason for arrest and caution you. The police should be advised immediately. Be aware of the restrictions that apply to the use of force by security guards – if you feel that ‘unreasonable’ force has been used, you can allege assault to police or pursue civil action.

A possible strategy for avoiding conflict between students and security guards is to negotiate with their union. It is possible to achieve results such as occurred in the 1992 occupation of the Administration Building at Macquarie University when the University’s (privatised) security guards were used to evict students. After discussions with their union, they were not used against students in the second occupation.

Also see Private security guards

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