Since 1899, the Mayor of the District of Columbia has been empowered by law to appoint any number of special privates for duty in connection with any emergency, such as riot or pestilence, or during any day or days of public election, ceremony, or celebration. Special police officers (SPOs) may be appointed by the Mayor of the District of Columbia for duty in connection with the property of or under the charge of a corporation or individual(s) requesting the appointment(s). A SPO is a privately commissioned police officer with full arrest powers within an area or premise in which the officer is employed to protect. A SPO commission is valid for a time period of one year or less, and the commission is conditional and must be renewed each year.
D.C. SPOs carry out similar duties to those of a full-time D.C. Metropolitan sworn police officer. SPOs can carry firearms, patrol on foot, bike and drive a patrol car, respond to emergency calls, take reports, make an arrest, and testify in court.
Any individual who wishes to become a D.C. Special Police Officer (SPO) must go through the training requirements established by D.C. law, before being commissioned by the Mayor of the District of Columbia. Special Police Officers (SPOs) must complete the following minimum training to include topics as mentioned in D.C. Municipal Code Title 6A, Chapter 11:
(a) Be a United States citizen by either birth or naturalized;
(b) Be at least 21 years of age;
(c) Have at least a minimum of a high school diploma or GED;
(d) Be able to read, write, and speak the English language;
(e) Each applicant for certification shall be required to submit a physician's certificate stating, to the best of the physician's knowledge after examining the applicant, the following:
(1) The applicant is not presently addicted to drugs or alcohol;
(2) The applicant is not suffering from any debilitating mental defect or disorder; and
(3) The applicant is not suffering from serious heart disease, severe epilepsy, or other physical defect which might cause substantial loss of control in situations of severe stress.
(f) Pass a medical drug exam;
(g) SPOs shall be required to satisfactorily complete pre-assignment, on-the-job, and in-service training programs which have been prescribed and approved by the Mayor.
(h) Pre-assignment training shall include at least sixteen (16) hours of training on arrest powers, search and seizure laws, the District of Columbia Official Code, and the use of force. Pre-assignment training shall include an additional twenty-four (24) hours of training generally relating to the special police officer's duties and specifically including:
(1) Terrorism awareness, including building evacuation, unattended packages, and unknown substances;
(2) Emergency procedures, including evacuation and first-aid; and
(3) Customer service and interaction with tourists.
(i) Special police officers who are armed shall satisfactorily complete an additional forty (40) hours of firearms training.
(j) Special police officers who carry a baton, handcuffs, or OC spray shall also complete additional training required by the brand of equipment they are carrying.
(k) Special police officers shall satisfactorily complete a sixteen (16) hour, on-the-job training course within ninety (90) working days following employment, and an 8-hour annual in-service training course;
(l) No polygraph exam is required;
Special Police Officers’ authority is restricted to the property they are contracted to protect. They have no authority on public space unless they are in fresh pursuit of a misdemeanant or felon (Title 6A, Chapter 11).
Yes, SPOs have arrest authority on their contracted property. Like an MPD officer, they can take action and affect an arrest of a subject (DC Code § 23-582, Part A).
No, Special Police Officers do not have that authority (Title 18, § 3002 and § 3003).
Generally, firearms or other dangerous weapons carried by a special police officer shall be left on their authorized premises when that special police officer is not on duty (Title 6A, Chapter 11, § 1103).
If there are no provisions for the safe storage of their firearm at the location they are working, they may take the firearm home after their tour of duty, and must also respond directly to their residence “without deviation” (Title 6A, Chapter 11, § 1103.4).
A Special Police Officer may also carry a firearm when they are traveling between contract sites that they are working. They may traverse “without deviation” between the location they are leaving, and the location where they are going (Title 6A, Chapter 11, § 1103.4).
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