top of page

Security Professionals Know CALI

CALI is an acronym that stands for capabilities, activities, limitations, and intent. As a security professional we want to be holistically aware of ourselves and our job. CALI is a big part of that. If answers for simple but significant questions. Why am I here? What is my job? What do I have on hand to make me successful at this job? What am I restricted or need to stay away from doing? If you know those four things about your job you are a great path to being a security professional.


All security personnel need to know their capabilities. If you have a duty belt with gear on it you should know how to utilize each piece of equipment on it in accordance with how it was designed by the manufacturer to be used. You must know how your company wants you to use that gear. Getting away from your body what equipment is around you. Does your location have fire extinguishers, panic buttons, emergency pop-up barriers? You need to know all of this equipment that is within the purview of your job and how to operate it. Always expect that the piece of equipment that someone else is supposed to use to save your life will be needed the day that person is on vacation.

An important part of capabilities is maintenance. Is that firearm going to discharge and send rounds toward its intended target when you squeeze the trigger? Does that OC spray still have charge to expel that fluid? Will the baton fully extend when deployed? Is the fire extinguisher charged? Have the popup barriers been tested to ensure they will deploy fully? Where are the medical supplies? Are they any good? Do you know how to use them? When it comes to equipment on your body you should maintain it and test it. As for gear around you such as the barriers ask your site maintenance or supervisor if they have been tested and are receiving maintenance. Hopefully there is a maintenance log somewhere. To be best assured hopefully you can test their deployment.

Capabilities are more than just equipment. What is your potential for backup? If you call 9-1-1 what is your best, average, and worst-case scenario for response time? Do you have backup at your site? How long will it take for them to get from wherever on post they are to your position? You should have response times mapped out across your location. Location X is five minutes from the guard house. Location Y is fifteen minutes from Post 3. In a dangerous situation you need to know how long you have to hold out before you receive some relief.

What are your communication abilities? If you have a radio does it get acceptable reception throughout the entire post? Same for cell phones. You should have a backup communication method. Are their desk or wall phones? Do you know the number to use to make a call? Many companies require you hit a certain number or combination of buttons in order to switch between internal and external lines. Do you know the number you need to call for help?

What are your speaking capabilities? Use your words. Interpersonal skills and de-escalation are key skills a security professional needs to deal with the public and especially people in distress. Are you a person that radiates genuine feeling and empathy when speaking to someone? If so you may feel comfortable dealing with a distressed person.

What are your powers? Some states and local jurisdictions provide specific powers for security officers. In South Carolina for instance at least some guards, if not all, have the same power as a SC county deputy on their property. Missouri has a specific class of security guard called corporate security advisers with enhanced powers. Some states have security called special police. It is important to know how a contract is written out. For instance, in some states if you work at a store as contract security instead of as an employee you may not be entitled to a law called shopkeeper’s privilege. Some states for a contracted security guard to be entitled to shopkeeper’s privilege the contract must include a clause stating that security guards working at that site have all the powers and privileges of employees of the site.


You have a mission set for your job. The company wants you to do a set number of things throughout the day. You have a steady-state mission set. When there are no emergency and things are kosher, you should be doing this. That might be as simple as ensuring doors that are supposed to be locked are locked, conducting foot or vehicle patrols, or handing out visitor badges. But then you have emergency response duties. Your client (and your company if you are contracted) want you to do a specific set of things when an emergency occurs. You should have post orders that tell you what it is to do. You need to know what is expected of you in all situations. Ask for clarification about any concerns or knowledge gaps you have.

You need to know the purpose of your duties. If there is a complication or a disruption that keeps you from doing things in the way you were instructed is there another option that provides the same effect? For instance, if your job is to lock the front doors every night and the door lock is broken can you chain them? Is it an entryway into a vestibule with a second set of doors that could lock that would still protect the core facility and limit unauthorized entry only into that vestibule? The online logging system for visitors is down. Can you create a paper log? The system that prints out visitor IDs is down. Can you provide them an escort to get where they need? If your normal way is inoperable and you can come up with workarounds to achieve the same effect then do so. Always remember to report the defects that led to you having to use an alternate method.

Time management is important. How long does each of my duties take? Can doing them in a certain order cut down time? This is especially the case with computer work. Sometimes you can fill out one document and it has information you can simply copy and paste into other documents you need. If you have a route to patrol, say if you need to reach certain points, then what route is the most efficient?


Your security title does not give you a lot of legal authority in most cases. As previously stated, there are a few exceptions where some security personnel have that same authority as a law enforcement officer. You will be told if you have that authority. Never assume you have such an authority. This is not a business of better to ask for forgiveness than permission. If you overstep your authority in any way you could criminally and civilly liable, as could your client and your employer. Some things that you think might fall into a security realm may require a private investigator license in your state. Many things that security guards might want to do fall under law enforcement powers. Many states do not allocate any certain powers to security personnel beyond that of a private citizen or an employee of the site of which they work. Their powers of investigation and arrest are very limited. Know your state laws.

You may also have restrictions placed upon you by the company and the client. Proprietary security guards are lucky in the fact they do not have to try to juggle two masters. You have to follow the most restrictive policies set forth by each. If one says you can do something but the other says you cannot then you cannot. Understand the difference in must and can. Must mean it absolutely has to be done or not done. Can means if you want to it is within your privilege. As long as the restriction is on something that you are allowed then follow the restriction. If the restriction is on something that the client or the employer tells you that you must do then that needs to be handled at a company representative to company representative level. Call a supervisor and have them figure out which side is budging. Oftentimes poor communication during the sales phase between the client and contract rep lead to this. Sometimes contracts are signed at a very high level, at a national corporate level. The corporate staff may not provide significant instruction about the purpose of having security onsite. Therefore, they may tell you not to do things you are supposed to or vice versa.

This also comes to rules on use of force. Your company may be a hard-charging company that trusts its personnel can handle a hands-on situation and do it in a legal manner. They may say that you are allowed to use whatever authority or capabilities you have to the fullest extent in which the law empowers you to do so. The client may say they want you to only observe and report. Guess which one you need to do. Observe and report. The situation may be flipped and the company is very restrictive and the client instead is very gung ho about what they want you to do. Follow the more restrictive policy. Once again, if the client wants more than what your company allows that needs to be handled at a high-level company rep to contractor rep meeting, not the security guard level.

Know your professionally social limitations. One of the most jaw-dropping things I ever heard of was a security guard that marched into the office of a site manager and started giving his two cents about security improvements. The is only some discrepancy between different people telling the story about whether he made it out the door before it could strike his derriere or not. This individual was not even the security supervisor. If anything, he should have brought those concerns to his supervisor. That individual definitely exceeded his limit.

Sometimes your advice may be solicited. Even when such advice is solicited, know your place. If I have a boss and I am in a room with them when a client asks for advice, I am going to hope my boss answers. If the question is directed at me, I am going to give my boss time to interject. I’m going to look at them for clues in their face that say, “Do not give your opinion here.” If they give me that look, I am just going to say I something to hopefully sideline that question. At the worker level you need to give that deference to your supervisor. If they are fine with you giving your opinion, then by all means do so IF you have knowledge in that area. If you have training and experience with something then absolutely answer the question. If not, be smart enough to know not to give advice that could potentially be bad advice.

One of the hardest things to do is to bite your tongue when a senior employee is talking and you know they are giving bad information. While in the military I was often stressed out because I repeatedly attended meetings where someone else presented my work. Some senior sergeant or officer wanted facetime with the recipient. So I sat and watched the work I had poured my life into and I was extremely proud of be misrepresented. It still happens in the private security industry. But you have to recognize your place. Mine was not to cut into the briefing and interrupt a senior military leader. My job is just to develop the products they pay me for.

Have your satisfaction in personally being a good worker, not in everyone knowing. Recognition will come. Usually sooner or later they will find out that individual was full of nonsense. In the private security industry, you will see people talk about what “operators” they are. They know everything they say. They really impress clients until the client sees their work is terrible. Do not think that limiting yourself from speaking out means cutting off your chances to shine as a professional.

Know your interpersonal communications. There are plenty of people with poor interpersonal skills. It is okay to recognize that about yourself. If you have poor interpersonal skills then perhaps you may wish to avoid being that person trying to talk someone off a ledge or the person trying to de-escalate a situation. If you are one of those people that make matters worse when you speak try to limit your talking as much as possible.

Know your defensive limitations. A fair fight is a bad fight. Extricate yourself from a situation if you do not think you can neutralize the threat. There are professional levels of avoiding a fight in which we try to avoid a fight because we want to end every situation as easily as possible. But recognize personal safety reasons for avoiding a fight. You may have to skew on the unprofessional side a bit to avoid a fight that professionally you probably should take but one you recognize personally you cannot win. We still need to have the situation handled. Maybe we have to retreat and call the police. Maybe we have to evacuate people and let the aggressor have control of an area. But do not get into fights you cannot win if you can help it.

Harking back to capabilities we discussed knowing your equipment. You need to know what it cannot do as well. Your firearm may work poorly with certain kinds of ammunition. What shot is too far with your firearm? Can you use it in a crowd or will it over penetrate? How far will your OC spray? Are you going to be affected if you spray it? For me I carry OC. But I can tell you there are only two scenarios I will ever use it. First, the air is blowing their way, they are six feet from me, and I am in an open environment. Two, I cannot reach anything else and I am at risk of being killed if I do not deploy the pepper spray. It affects me like kryptonite affects Superman. I know my limit.

As for equipment off the body there are also considerations. Is it the right type of fire extinguisher for that type of fire? Does the med kit have what is needed for that type of injury? If you engage the barrier control now will the car be able to get through before the barrier pops up? These are all limitations you have to consider.


You need to do know your purpose. The client wants security at this site because XYZ. For some they only want you there as a means for lower insurance rates. Some companies hire security companies as a means to reduce their own payroll. Instead of really being charged with tasks we would see as security they are doing jobs like running a garage toll booth or doing receptionist duties. Just because you work for a security company does not mean they always are really looking for a security guard. Securitas USA for example has an Usher position which is much more of domestic service work. Do not be caught up with the badge on your chest or the title security guard, security officer, or whatever it may be. Be caught up in doing what your employer wants you to be doing. Some of the worst security guards out there are the ones that complain about doing not security-related tasks. Understand why the client actually wants you there. Keeping the client happy is how contract security companies keep contracts. For proprietary security guards it is how you keep your job.

Think back to your duties. You should know which duties are most important to the intent of your job. Emergency duties are certainly more important than steady-state duties. You need to be able to prioritize duties based on the overall intent of why you are at the facility. If you have ten tasks and only the time to do six of them then you need to prioritize the six task that are most important.

Recognize the intent of your company’s contract. Some clients contract for limited services but they ask for more. Whereas when we spoke about limitations, we were talking about hard do and do not things. Do not carry a weapon on an unarmed post. Do not go hands on when one or the other says only observe and report. Here we mean something a little less defined.

A client may sign a contract with a security provider for a workplace violence detail. However, once onsite they mention they have a problem with theft and ask you to watch out for theft. That may be well within the services your company provides, but not for the contract they signed with this particular client. If in doubt call someone about whether something is okay. Your employer may tell you no and that the client needs to renegotiate the contract. Their intent is to try to get more money out of the client for additional services rendered. The employer may tell you yes as long as it does not interfere with your assigned duties. Their intent is to keep that client happy so that hopefully that contract goes as long as possible.

Recognize the intent of policies. Under limitations we spoke about restrictive policies. For instance, some states may say that as long as someone passes a register without purchasing merchandise they are carrying, they have already committed theft and can be confronted. The company may say do not engage them unless they get outside the store. They may have multiple reasons for such a policy. They do not want a fight breaking out in front of a bunch of shoppers and ruining their shopping experience. They do not want the area between the registers and the doors clogged by a brawl. They do not want potential contaminates like blood or OC spray in their store to clean up. They do not want stuff inside the store torn up by a potential fight. When it comes to hands off policies it is mostly because most things can be settled in civil or criminal court. They recognize it is a lot less hassle to call the police and have someone arrested then to make the arrest themselves and risk a lawsuit. It is always better to go to court as a complainant than the defendant.

The intent of assigned or available equipment is also necessary to understand. Each piece of equipment was designed with an intent in mind from the manufacturer. In social media groups you might have seen unarmed security guards say that they carry wasp spray because they are not allowed OC. Right on the can it most insecticides say it is illegal to use them for unintended purposes. There is a very set of narrow cases where you are going to be able to articulate the carrying of wasp spray in court.

Some guards may use a flashlight for self-defense. Why would they make a beveled flashlight after all if it was not to crack skulls? It actually serves a whole different purpose. In many cases hitting someone with a flashlight is viewed legally as the same as hitting them with a metal pipe. For some reason it is often more acceptable to use a metal expandable baton. Different court cases have argued about a number of factors why. The baton is hollow whereas the flashlight is not due to having its components and batteries inside which generally lend to the potential of transferring greater force on impact is one such argued reason. If there was a reasonable period of peace during two points of a physical confrontation and you do not use that respite to transition from your flashlight to your baton be prepared for how that might play out in court. Opposing counsel is never your friend. Use the right tool for the task.

The CALI Conscious Professional

The CALI conscious professional is self-confident and inspires confidence in their employer. They are a great reflection of their employer and their client. They are an efficient professional that knows how to best achieve goals. They are someone that sets an example for others. They are adaptive to their environment. They make great mentors for those new people learning how to do the job.

There are many more things to learn along the path of being a professional. Knowledge of threats and assessments, continued education, broadening assignments, and work ethic are things not covered in CALI you will obviously need. You need to gain those interpersonal skills and present yourself in a professional image. But knowing CALI is a great start that believe it or not will separate you from your peers in this industry. Many security employees do not seem to know it. It should definitely help you get on the short list for awards and promotions. Businesses want CALI conscious leaders. Build your career on a rock-hard foundation of CALI rather than build it on the shifting sands of ignorance.

46 views0 comments


bottom of page