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The 411 on Courtesy Officers: Does Your Apartment Community Need One?

By rmckinney

While the word “security guard” may elicit the thought that there is a need for such measures, the word “courtesy officer,” brings to mind something much less innocuous. This is one reason why many apartment properties are making the shift to the latter when assigning titles to employees who provide on-property security functions. Unfortunately, this can lead to some confusion among residents. Let’s take a closer look at the increasingly prominent role of the courtesy officer within the property management industry.

What is a Courtesy Officer?
Although their names sound very different, courtesy officers and security guards fulfill the same basic set of responsibilities: to provide security to residential communities.

Typically, courtesy officers are employed directly by property management companies, and may be provided with on-site housing or reduced rent as part of their jobs. Because they live on premises, they are often familiar with residents and properties, as well as readily available if a problem arises. They also may wear more discrete attire—like a simple polo shirt—as opposed to typical uniform of a security guard.

Many property managers mistakenly assume that using the title of “courtesy officer,” reduces their liability in the event that a crime occurs. According to LPT Security Consulting, this is a misconception. Regardless of what you choose to call them, courtesy officers are a security measure, and should be viewed as such by management and residents alike.

“Courtesy” Vs. “Security”
While there are some minor differences between the courtesy officers and security guards, the biggest discrepancy may indeed be the name. Both come with ample training and experience. In many cases, they are off-duty law enforcement agents.

However, there are also some differences between the two. Unlike courtesy officers, security guards are usually contract workers. They wear uniforms, may be responsible for conducting routine foot patrols, and are often on more formal terms with residents because they don’t live within the community. And unlike courtesy officers who may only over coverage during normal office hours, security guards typically work in around-the-clock shifts.

Things to Keep In Mind
While contract security guard duties are externally managed, courtesy officers fall under the umbrella of property management and do not come with a predefined set of functions. Property managers who opt to employ a courtesy officer should be careful to clearly delineate accountability in terms of all expected and agreed upon job duties. These can exceed core security functions, comprising everything from checking external lighting to ensuring that facilities—like the pool and laundry—are in working order.

While courtesy officers may seem like new players on the property management scene, they are ultimately quite similar to security guards in function. If you do choose to employ a courtesy officer, adequately communicating the roles and responsibilities of the position to residents will not only prevent misunderstandings, but can also help build your community.