Knesset passes bill to let security guards use 'reasonable force'
Legislation intended to prevent incidents such as stabbings that take place outside bars.
Private security guards will be authorized to use "reasonable force" to block people from entering a building or to kick them out in an effort to prevent a violent act from taking place, under a bill approved by the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee yesterday for the second and third readings in the Knesset.
The legislation, which is intended to make it easier for security guards to prevent such incidents as the stabbings that periodically take place outside bars or clubs, would grant private security guards the right to operate inside a building rather than just at the entrance and to order people to show their identification - and to keep them out - if the guard thinks there is a high probability they will be violent. The guard would be authorized to detain suspects until police arrive.
The proposal has sparked opposition from the Public Defender's Office and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which warn that such a law would impinge on people's civil rights and represents a de facto privatization of the police force. Some fear guards could use their expanded powers to discriminate against minorities or anyone who appears different.
"This is a violation of all the norms and an extreme evasion of the state's responsibility, while causing serious harm to civil rights and placing serious responsibility on security guards for something they have not been trained to do," said MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ). "How can it be that they're granting state powers to a private entity?"
Under the existing law, security guards are authorized to operate only at the entrance to buildings, at bus and train stations, and at the entrance to or near public transit vehicles. In addition, violent incidents are generally left to the police, not private security guards, who are not subject to governmental oversight or police regulations and do not undergo police training.
But the Knesset interior committee said in its explanatory notes that by the time the police show up, it is sometimes too late for victims of violence.
While the committee warned of the repercussions of failing to give guards the tools to take action, the Public Defender's Office warned of the dangers of granting some of the police's authority to civilians.
"The bill significantly and dramatically expands the already expansive powers given to security guards, is characterized by amorphous and general directives, and does not include safeguards that would ensure these powers given to the security guards are not used for ill," said Yishai Sharon, an attorney at the Public Defender's Office. "In effect, the bill grants these private entities sensitive powers that are clearly governmental and which, in certain situations, they will be able to exercise based solely on their subjective evaluation."
The Knesset committee agreed to child advocate Yitzhak Kadman's request to limit the authority of school security guards, who will be expected to keep out people who don't belong in the school, not to maintain order in the corridors or intervene in non-violent conflicts between teachers and students, said Kadman.
Even with the restrictions, Kadman, who heads the National Council for the Child, opposes allowing guards to act like police officers.
"The law gives the security guards the power to physically stop and detain students, without any training," he said. "We think dealing with school discipline should not be privatized and police activity in response to serious violence should not be privatized, with the responsibility handed over to an unqualified 72-year-old man who makes NIS 25 an hour."