Call Us: (877) 217-9536

The Complex and Controversial History of Security Guards

Private security guards have been around for centuries, dating back to ancient times when wealthy individuals hired personal guards to protect their homes and assets. However, the modern era of private security guards can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when a group of private detectives known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency emerged.

The Pinkertons

The Pinkertons were founded in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant, and former Chicago police officer. The agency quickly gained a reputation for its investigative skills, and its clients included some of the most prominent figures of the time, including Abraham Lincoln and the Union Pacific Railroad. During the Civil War, the Pinkertons also played a significant role in intelligence gathering for the Union Army.

However, the Pinkertons are perhaps best known for their role in labor disputes, where they were often hired by companies to break strikes and disrupt union activity. This led to a reputation as union-busters, and the agency was responsible for several violent clashes with labor activists, including the infamous Homestead Strike of 1892, where Pinkerton agents engaged in a gun battle with striking steelworkers, resulting in several deaths.

Despite this controversy, the Pinkertons continued to thrive throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, expanding into a wide range of investigative services, including personal security, financial investigations, and even spy work for the U.S. government during World War II. However, as the role of law enforcement grew in the 20th century, the Pinkertons gradually declined in influence, and the agency officially ceased operations in 1999.


In the years since the Pinkertons, a number of private security firms have emerged to fill the void, with perhaps the most controversial of these being Blackwater (later renamed Xe and then Academi). Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, Blackwater gained notoriety during the Iraq War, where it was hired by the U.S. government to provide security services to diplomats and other officials in the war-torn country.

However, Blackwater soon became embroiled in controversy, with allegations of excessive force, human rights violations, and even murder. The most infamous incident occurred in 2007, when Blackwater contractors opened fire on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, killing 17 people and injuring 20 others. This incident led to a series of investigations and legal battles, and Blackwater eventually paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements.

Despite this controversy, Blackwater and other private security firms continue to operate around the world, providing a range of services to both governments and private clients. These services can include personal security, convoy protection, and even military training and advisory services.

Security Guards

However, the use of private security firms has also raised concerns about accountability and oversight, with many critics arguing that these firms operate outside of traditional legal frameworks and can engage in actions that would be illegal for government or law enforcement agencies. There have also been concerns about the quality and training of private security personnel, with some experts arguing that these firms prioritize profit over safety and professionalism.

Private security services can be hired by individuals or businesses for a variety of reasons. Here are some examples:

  • Protection of property: Private security can be hired to protect a person’s property, such as a house, office building, or retail store. This may include security guards, surveillance cameras, and alarm systems.
  • Personal protection: Private security can also be hired to provide personal protection for individuals. This may include bodyguards or executive protection services for high-profile individuals or celebrities.
  • Event security: Private security can be hired to provide security for events such as concerts, festivals, and sporting events. This may include crowd control, bag checks, and metal detector screenings.
  • Transportation security: Private security can be hired to provide security for transportation services, such as for executives or VIPs traveling by plane, train, or car.
  • Cybersecurity: Private security can be hired to provide cybersecurity services for businesses, including vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and incident response planning.
  • Investigative services: Private security can be hired to conduct investigations into various matters, such as fraud, theft, or corporate espionage.

Overall, private security services can be customized to meet the specific needs of the client and can provide an extra layer of protection and peace of mind.


In conclusion, the history of private security guards and firms is a complex and often controversial one, with both positive and negative aspects. While these firms can provide important services in areas where traditional law enforcement may be insufficient or unavailable, there are also serious concerns about accountability and oversight that must be addressed to ensure that private security does not become a lawless and unaccountable industry.

1 thought on “The Complex and Controversial History of Security Guards”

  1. Pingback: Private Security Companies are Stepping Up in New Orleans

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top