California PSO License - The New "Guard Card"

It's been a full two years since the State of California mandated that any employee who's primary duties are as an in house security guard must be licensed as a Proprietary Private Security Officer or PSO. The licensing process for this type of employee, when you completely understand it, is fairly simple. However, it will take some time to really understand and get used to this new license. What follows is a outline of the process to help the individual employee or the employer fully understand the PSO license process. If you have any issues, please don't hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

If you are an employee who's primary purpose is to provide in house security services for a single employer, you are required to be licensed. The regulatory agency for this new license is the CALIFORNIA BUREAU OF SECURITY AND INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES or BSIS. Their website has other information to review if you desire.

First, so you know, we are not just giving you our own interpretation of the law. Not at all, in fact, in 2008, our company President was appointed the chairperson for the state committee that wrote the training program and guidelines surrounding it. He attended meetings and had several bi-weekly conversations with the state about the law, the issues of getting the word out to operators and the law enforcement perspective on it. Finally, the training program that our company has used throughout the country for years was the model the committee used to create the training requirements and in May, 2010, we were the first California company issued a license to offer the training. Our California license number is P-00001.

Here is the outline of the EMPLOYEE licensing processes.

Proprietary Private Security Officers or PSO

This licensing process is not in any order and an employee can obtain training before registration or visa versa.

  1. Go to the BSIS website and download the PSO LIVESCAN FINGERPRINT FORM. This is a 3 copy form and must be totally filled out before fingerprints can be done. BE SURE you download the PSO form and not the Guard Card form.

  2. Find a Live Scan fingerprint office of your choice and, along with your three copies of the Live Scan form, go get your fingerprints electronically rolled. The finger print cost is site specific but generally runs between 15-30 dollars per person. Additionally, you will have to pay the FBI fee of $19 dollars and the DOJ fee of $31.00 dollars at the time of fingerprinting. Your total fingerprinting fee should be between $70 and $90 dollars.

  3. The Live Scan fingerprint location will give you a copy of the completely filled out Live Scan form. They will also automatically send your fingerprints to BSIS for them to submit, read and hold awaiting your registration form.

  4. Now, again go to the BSIS website and download the PSO APPLICATION FORM. Completely and carefully fill out this form with all the same correct information you wrote on your Live Scan form. Once this form is completed, attach the copy of the Live Scan form you were given and mail these forms to BSIS with a registration fee of $50.00 dollars. When your registration form and fee arrive at BSIS, they will match this form with your LIve Scan form and fingerprints that were submitted by the LIve Scan company.

Only after both documents are at BSIS will they place the employees name on the "Verify a License" section of the BSIS website and this is only IF the employee passes the national criminal background check. Again, you can VERIFY A PSO LICENSE HERE

  1. The state will normally send you a PSO Card after about 5-6 weeks. Although the state has had some trouble meeting that time deadline, they are getting better. Remember, you can periodically check the Verify a License link on the BSIS website to print out an approved registration until you receive your actual PSO Card.

  2. The PSO must attend 16-hours of state approved training. This training must be provided by an approved trainer with a state license to issue that training. The 16-hours of training provided must include 2 hours of Powers to Arrest and 2 hours of Terrorism Awareness. The remaining 12 hours should be job specific and totally related to the employees duties and responsibilities. Cost for this training depends on the provider.

Be aware that there are licensed company's that are simply offering generic security guard training they have taken from past guard card courses. They are calling it a PSO training session but it is not job specific nor civilly compliant should you be sued. Be diligent and don't be afraid to ask questions to see if the curriculum they are offering is truly job specific. Additionally, each truly licensed company must present each attendee with a state approved certificate. In most cases, these company's charge a much lower amount than a normal 16-hour training course. Just be diligent when reviewing this specific component and the provider. The pain won't come from the inevitable police inspection, they won't know a good company from a bad one. No, the pain will come during a deposition for civil litigation.

  1. After the training session, the PSO will receive a BSIS reviewed and approved certificate of completion. A copy of this certificate must be given to their employer so they can keep a copy on the premise for inspection. This certificate copy must be presented during any law enforcement inspection if requested.

  2. This PSO licensing training is valid for 2 years. A refresher course of 2 hours must be completed every 2-years after the initial 16 hours.

  3. It is very important to remember that the PSO License is a combination of BOTH the registration AND the training. The PSO license or PSO Card is the property of the employee and can be taken with them to another employer. The PSO can work for other locations or PSE's with their own PSO Card at the same time as long as that PSO isn't farmed out from location to location as a rented or leased employee.

  4. One last point.... this is still a fairly new mandatory requirement for all in house guards and their employers. There are very specific labor law sections that outline important areas regarding not terminating the employee should the employer want to avoid paying for the licening process. An HR expert should be consulted if further clarification is needed.

Also, the law states an employer has 6 months from the date you hire a guard or from the date the state registration is issued to have the PSO legally trained. This allows an employer to see if that PSO will work out before they must pay for the training. The training requirement went into effect January 1, 2011... six months later would be July 1, 2011. The enforcement related to the training component could have began July 1 of 2011. Hope that makes sense.

The criminal violation carry's a pretty hefty fine for a guard working while being unlicensed. California Business and Professions Code section 16240 carry's a maximum fine of $5000.00 dollars.

Finally, the old guard card was the only license available for any security employee for over 30 years. The PSO Card is now the second security guard license available in California. If someone tells you that the Guard Card will do if you work in a bar or a club, they are wrong. The PSO license carry's mandatory and VERIFIABLE training. The law is clear and states the following;

"... a person registered and hired as a proprietary private security officer shall complete training in security officer skills within six months from the date upon which registration is issued, or within six months of his or her employment with a proprietary private security employer."

I believe that any misinformation out there is only because of the lack of understanding in the new law and the licensing process. Should you or any of your supervisors have ANY questions, don't hesitate to contact us directly.