Pennsylvania: Unarmed Security Officers

Legislation and Details for Pennsylvania


The Private Detective Act of 1953

Pennsylvania Statutes Title 22 P.S. Detectives

Authorizing Department

Office of the County Clerk
Pennsylvania State Police Headquarters

1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110
Phone: (717) 783-5599

Official Website

Licensure and License Fees

In Pennsylvania only security businesses require to obtain a license certificate.

The Private Detective Act of 1953 states in part:

“(a) The holder of any license certificate issued pursuant to this act may employ to assist him in his work of private detective or investigator as described in section 2 and in the conduct of such business as many persons as he may deem necessary, and shall at all times during such employment be legally responsible for the good conduct in the business of each and every person so employed and shall be responsible for the reasonable supervision of said employee’s conduct.”
See: Private Detective Act of 1953 Section 13(a)

The individual applies directly to the security agency for employment by providing an “employee’s statement”. It is the responsibility of the license certificate holder to take steps necessary to verify the information provided by the applicant.
See: Private Detective Act of 1953 Section 13(b) and (c)

Section 6(a) of the Private Detective Act of 1953

Pennsylvania applicants file by Petition.
See: Pennsylvania Bulletin

Pennsylvania’s regulatory oversight of security officers is complex and bureaucratic. An individual can apply for a license as well a company that petitions a local court of common pleas for that license. Each county in the Commonwealth has the authority to investigate and review these petitions and hence the examples given in this section are merely representative. For example, the rules for Monroe County, which are posted here would be identical to the many other counties in the Commonwealth.
See: Form of the Petition
See: State’s Legislative History on Oversight of the Industry

$200 License Fee

See: Private Detective Act of 1953

Foreign Jurisdiction Licensure


Age Requirements

The applicant must be at least 18 years of age.


Section 4(a) of the Private Detective Act of 1953

The applicant must be a citizen of the United States if a licensee individual but an employee lists no requirement.

The employee’s statement shall include the country of which the applicant is a citizen.


None required.


None required.

Permit Required

None required.

Requirement to carry an ID card

If applying as a person-individual business licnese- the following provisions apply:
Section 12 of the Private Detective Act of 1953
Upon the issuing of a license as hereinbefore provided, the court of quarter sessions shall issue to each such person, individual member of a partnership or association, or officer of a corporation making and filing a statement required by section 4 of this act, a pocket card, of such size and design as such court may prescribe, which card shall contain a photograph of the licensee, the name and business address of the licensee, and the imprint or impress of the seal of the court, and also a metal shield or badge, of such shape and description and bearing such inscription as the court may designate, which pocket card and badge shall be evidence of due authorization pursuant to the terms of this act.

The legislation is silent on the requirement to carry or display the pocket card while on duty.

Moral Character

Section 13(4) of the Private Detective Act of 1953
The employee of a licensee shall not have been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.


Section 13.6 of the Private Detective Act of 1953
(d)The holder of a license certificate shall affix one set of such fingerprints to the employee’s statement, in such manner that the prints can be examined without disclosing the contents of the employee’s statement, and shall retain such statement and prints so long as he shall be licensed under this act.

Substance Abuse

No baseline requirement.

Mental Health

No baseline requirement.

Criminal History Background Check

Section 6(b) of the Private Detective Act of 1953
No such license shall be issued to any person who has been convicted in this State or any other state or territory of a felony, or any of the following offenses:

•   Illegally using, carrying or possessing a pistol or other dangerous weapon

•   Making or possessing burglar’s instruments

•   Buying or receiving stolen property
•   Unlawful entry of a building
•   Aiding escape from prison
•   Unlawfully possessing or distributing habit forming narcotic drugs
•   Picking pockets or attempting to do so
•   Soliciting any person to commit sodomy or other lewdness

•   Recklessly endangering another person
•   Making terroristic threats
•   Committing simple assault

See: Private Detective Ace of 1953

The chief mechanism for the Counts Court, County Clerk or other judicial personnel is to conduct due diligence on the applicant.
See Section 5 of the Private Detective Act.

Personal References

Section 4(a) of the Private Detective Act of 1953
Not less than five reputable citizens of the community in which such applicant resides or transacts business, or in which it is proposed to own, conduct, manage or maintain the bureau, agency, sub-agency, office or branch office for which the license is desired, each of whom shall certify that he has personally known the said person or individual for a period of at least five years prior to the filing of such application, that he has read such application and believes each of the statements made therein to be true, that such person is honest, of good character, and competent, and not related or connected to the person so certifying by blood or marriage. The certificate of approval shall be signed by such reputable citizens and duly verified and acknowledged by them before an officer authorized to take oaths and acknowledgment of deeds.

See: Private Detective Act of 1953

Training Requirements

None required.

Exam Requirement

None required.

Child Support

No baseline requirement.

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