Can loss prevention personnel touch you? This is a tricky question, with many parts. There is a fine legal line between detaining you and possible abuse of power. Stores, cities, and states all have different guidelines on this. If for any reason you find yourself facing loss prevention personnel, here’s what you should know.
What Should You Know About Loss Prevention Personnel?
Corporately hired. Loss prevention personnel are corporate employees, not civil servants. They don’t need to read you your Miranda rights, and they are not required to respect constitutional rights related to detention.
Bound by store policy. If you ever do find yourself facing loss prevention personnel, it might be better to find out how they want to settle the issue first. You could always ask if they have any proof of shoplifting. You might find also yourself banned from their store branches, which is within their rights. They might also have other store policies and statutes that don’t include law enforcement. That arrangement is better for everyone involved.
What Can Loss Prevention Do?
Observe and follow. Loss prevention personnel undergo training to spot possible shoplifters. While they certainly should not be discriminating in choosing who to watch, there are behavioral characteristics they profile, including the jackets people wear and the bags they bring. When they observe someone who fits the profile, they are perfectly justified in making their presence felt and following them. Stopping the crime before it happens is their priority.
Approach and detain. If loss prevention personnel believe they have seen enough probable cause to accuse someone of shoplifting, they can approach the customer after the customer passes the cash register. Standing in the way of the alleged shoplifter and asking them to have a discussion is within their rights. If the alleged shoplifter attempts the use of force to leave or attack personnel, the personnel can also react within self-defense laws.
Conduct a citizen’s arrest. If loss prevention personnel are completely certain you successfully shoplifted an item from their story, they can conduct a citizen’s arrest. However, that causes more challenges for them. It would require them to physically detain you, and for that they need to prove that they have untampered, unprejudiced evidence of the shoplifting. They also need to prove reasonable use of force in detaining you and holding you in custody.
What Can Loss Prevention Usually Not Do?
Not all of these items are always true, depending on the store, city, or state policies. Keep in mind that more experienced personnel can and may attempt physical detention, since they know how the law will respond to their actions.
Charge you with a crime. Loss prevention personnel can conduct a citizen’s arrest, but they cannot legally charge you with a crime. Only the police have the authority to do so.
Hold you for a minimal value item. Some policies prevent shoplifters from being held if they attempt to take an item below a certain value. If they are certain it’s below the minimal value, they might even just allow shoplifters to walk out the door. In some states, shoplifters cannot legally be detained if the items found in their possession are below that minimal value.
Chase you beyond the sidewalk of the store property. Again, this differs. But engaging in a chase, even on foot, is potentially dangerous for the loss prevention personnel, the suspect, and any bystanders. If the suspect runs, it’s better for the store to report it to law enforcement and focus on preparing any evidence needed for them to make an arrest.
Touch you even for detention. Experienced loss prevention personnel might attempt this, depending on the policies they are following. However, if they get enough people to block the way and courteously invite you to reveal the items you attempted to shoplift, it would be hard in any case for you to leave without harming personnel. That would look worse for you than it would for them.
What’s A Bigger Concern?
As stores lessen their liability risks when it comes to loss prevention, they can and will make more investments in surveillance and personnel presence. Adding extra signs about surveillance and apprehension will go a long way towards discouraging shoplifters and reducing liability. Cameras and well-trained personnel are the future of loss prevention.