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11 Roles of Unarmed Security Officers in Active Assailant Incidents

Unarmed campus security officers can be a tremendous asset during an active killer, active shooter or active assailant attack.

11 Roles of Unarmed Security Officers in Active Assailant Incidents

Many incidents have shown that unarmed security officers might be able to stop an attack before police officers can get on scene.

The traditional advice given to unarmed security officers who encounter active killer, active shooter or active assailant incidents has been to get out and let armed officers handle it.

Unfortunately, this approach ignores the fact that security personnel, armed or unarmed, are likely to be among the first targets in an attack.  In addition, it results in poor resource management and reduced ability to manage a complex incident.

However, security professionals can be a tremendous asset during an active killer incident when they perform the right roles. Numerous incidents have already shown that security officers might be able to stop an attack, even when unarmed, before police officers can get on scene.

Here are eleven roles they can perform during these incidents.

  1. Protect Self
  2. Warn and Direct
  3. Monitor and Communicate
  4. Help Injured/Trapped
  5. Provide Information for Investigations
  6. Liaison with Police
  7. High Visibility
  8. Traffic Control
  9. Rescue Teams
  10. Security Sweeps
  11. Incident Command

Check out the slideshow!


Stephen Lopez is the Chief of Police at New Mexico State University.  He has been in law enforcement for 29 years, and holds bachelor degrees in criminal justice and psychology, a masters in strategic planning for critical infrastructure, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

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10 responses to “11 Roles of Unarmed Security Officers in Active Assailant Incidents”

  1. Timothy Thomas says:

    Why not just have a campus police department with highly trained armed personnel. Then you wouldn’t have to wait for the Police why people are trying to kill you. Unarmed security guard??? Is he serious? What a waste of resources. You will get what you pay for!! I highly disagree with the author. It’s almost as though he is saying unarmed guards are good enough to protect your kids. He should have said do not hire unarmed guards!! Armed guards are barely qualified to handle an armed intruder… And I mean barley!! Why doesn’t his University transition to all unarmed guards then they could wait for the real police to save them? I doubt he would suggest that. Unarmed guards.. WOW. Do not hire unarmed guards for our schools. The police do not rely on them at all in fact they are ridiculed by police officers. Just my rant… Sorry

  2. Scott Holt says:

    Also remember that many security officers are former and sometimes current law-enforcement individuals trained in many of the same areas as current LEOs.

  3. Scott says:

    Unarmed security provide many other duties throughout the days and years unrelated to “active shooter” scenarios. That is why you keep a core group of unarmed security.

  4. Joshua Anderson says:

    Mr. Thomas, I’m an armed security officer. I’ve been through a 40 hour P.O.S.T. (Police Officer Standards and Training) firearms course, multiple active shooter drills, crisis intervention training, arrest control, advanced firearms training including how to shoot through glass… so tell me again how I’m barely qualified to deal with an armed intruder?

  5. Kasia says:

    Tim, what branch of law enforcement are you in? By your response I would guess former bullied now highly over qualified cop? Bitter much? Our police rely on us a lot actually. Due to budget cuts theres just not enough cops patrolling the streets. Just last night I was involved in an incident that would have ended horrible if we had to wait for a squad to get there. I was able to diffuse the situation before it got totally out of control and two people still ended up getting arrested. Took close to 40 minutes for a responding officers to show up. And guess whos statement did the take first? You got it! Mine! And am glad i was there because the female involved was to afraid to make a statement against the man involved. Pretty sure they wont be charged because she wont file charges against them but it would have been a whole lot worse if i wasn’t involved. Taking on an active shooter is a totally different story. If cops were so highly questioned and experienced we would not have any of them falling in the line of duty genius!!! Lol ignorance at its finest!

  6. Stephen Lopez says:

    Hi Timothy,
    I appreciate your perspective. I am not advocating for using unarmed security officers anywhere in this article. However, many schools (and a number of smaller colleges/universities) refuse to arm their personnel, despite many being retired police officers who still have all of their knowledge and skills. For those who are in this unfortunate position, they should know how to protect themselves, and how they can still contribute during an active threat/killer incident. It is true that some will still encounter resistance when it comes to working with local law enforcement, but I have seen a large number start bridging this gap (especially those who used to work for the local law enforcement agencies). Just like we are starting to integrate fire and EMS personnel (usually unarmed) into our rescue task forces, I think we have an opportunity to evaluate how we can integrate security personnel into our responses rather than discounting them outright.

  7. John Canella says:

    The class was interesting. Everything evolves around training.

  8. Aaron says:

    Why don’t unarmed security officers wear or carry body armor like the ones offered by Citizenarmor.com ?

  9. Tyrone Wicks says:

    It’s easy to make a declaratory statement that things should or should not exist and sit back and feel like you “handled it”. While not the ideal situation, the fact is that some schools, Colleges, and Universities DO have unarmed security personnel. These officers are not ridiculed by professional police officers. They work together within their individual roles. This writer expertly explores that issue and provide some good advice and best practices on how best to utilize unarmed security personnel most effectively and safely.

  10. Steve Barker says:

    I am a armed security guard at a Jr. college .I was trained by the local police years ago, i was a armed reserve police officer from 85 to 95, 10 years. you don’t ever forget the training.

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