Transit Officers & Security Guards
Transit Officers are employed by CityRail as licensed security guards for the safety and security of passengers, staff and property. Transit Officers have a customer service and law enforcement role and patrol stations and trains. They wear blue and black shirts with navy blue pants. They work closely with the NSW Police.
There are approximately 600 Transit Officers employed in NSW and about 25 Transit Officers who are appointed as ‘special constables’, which means they have the same powers as police. The special constables wear the same uniforms as all Transit Officers, so there is no way of telling them apart from other Transit Officers!
There are also Revenue Protection Officers, who generally have the same powers as Transit Officers, but who are usually on stations (not trains) and just check tickets.
Do I have to answer questions?
Transit Officers have the power to:
- ask to see your ticket,
- ask for your name and address,
- ask to see your concession card,
- detain you for the length of time it takes to obtain any relevant information,
- detain you if you refuse to give your name and address (until police arrive),
- issue penalty notices, and
- arrest you (if they see you committing an offence).
Can Transit Officers search/confiscate my things?
Transit Officers can confiscate your concession card if it is incomplete, fake or misused. They can also confiscate any RailCorp issued passes which are incomplete, fake or misused.
Transit Officers cannot search you without your consent, but Transit Officers who are ‘special constables’ have the same powers as police, which means they can search you if they reasonably suspect you have drugs, a weapon, stolen property and anything else that you are going to use to commit a crime. If a Transit Officer wants to search you, you should ask for evidence that the officer is a special constable.
You can also politely refuse to agree to being searched, but you should be careful not to resist if a search proceeds as this will make things worse.
Can they make me move along/leave an area?
If a Transit Officer believes that you are committing an offence they can direct you to leave the train or station. Importantly, if you do not comply with their direction they can fine you and/or forcibly remove you.
Can they issue fines?
Transit Officers can issue on-the-spot fines.
The most common offence which people are fined for is travelling without a valid ticket. You must obtain a valid ticket before you use Cityrail transport. If you are unable to produce your ticket upon the request of a Transit Officer, you may be fined. Also, if you are purchasing a ticket at a concession rate, you must also be able to produce your concession card along with your ticket when requested. If you cannot, you may be fined.
Other offences you can be fined for are:
- putting feet on train seats
- littering on a train, station or railway property,
- smoking under any covered station area (including covered platforms and underground stations) or on a train,
- drinking alcohol on a train or at a station,
- using offensive language, offensive behaviour or spitting,
- blocking train doors or interfering with automatic doors,
- using the PA system or interfering with safety equipment,
- vandalising CityRail property (including graffiti),
- leaving the train while it is moving, and
- trespassing on railway land.
Often in these situations the Transit Officer will ask for your name, your address and your identification. If you are asked for any of this information you must truthfully provide it. If you don’t, you are committing an offence.
Can they arrest me?
Transit Officers can only arrest you if they actually see you committing an offence. They cannot arrest you if they only suspect you of committing an offence.
Remember, there are also Transit Officers who are ‘special constables’. They have the same powers as police. Special constables can arrest you if you are committing an offence, or they suspect you are committing an offence. They dress the same way as other Transit Officers, so you can’t tell them apart, but you can ask for evidence that they are a special constable.
In addition to Transit Officers, you may also find police officers in uniform or in plain clothes patrolling trains and stations. As police officers, they will have the power to arrest you.
How can I make a complaint?
Get the name or badge number of the Transit Officer and contact CityRail on 131 500. If you are unsatisfied with the response from CityRail you can then complain to the NSW Ombudsman on 02 9286 1000.
There are different types of security officers depending upon the security they are employed to provide. For example, a security officer may be employed to patrol a shopping centre, to control crowds at entertainment venues, or they may be employed as a bodyguard. They are usually employed under a contract with a company, property owner or event organiser and usually wear security uniforms, often a fluorescent vest.
The powers of a security guard will vary depending upon the type of job they are patrolling at (and the licence that they hold). Private security guards are often used to monitor access to an area or to provide additional security. All security guards are required by law to wear a large, visible number as identification. Take note of this number and the company they are with in case you wish to make a complaint. Security guards generally have little more power than private citizens.
What powers do security guards have?
Security guards generally do not have the power to:
- confiscate your property,
- search you or your bag without your permission,
- require you to move on from an area,
- issue fines, or
- arrest you.
If they see you actually committing an offence, they can detain you until police arrive. They cannot detain you if they only suspect you of committing an offence.
Different security guards have different powers. See the examples of different security guards below.
Security guards in shopping centres
In a shopping centre a security officer can do the following:
- Ban you from entering the centre after handing you a banning notice which explains the reasons for the ban. There is no time limit for how long a ban can last for. If you receive a Notice, you should seek assistance from a youth worker or lawyer. They may be able to help you get the ban lifted or shortened. You should also be aware that if you refuse to leave or ignore the notice, then the police—not security guards—will have the power to charge you with the criminal offence of trespass.
- Remove you using reasonable force if you resist an order to leave.
- Detain you if they are certain that you have committed a criminal offence.
- Take a photo of you on the premises, but you may conceal your face.
- Ask to search you if doing so is a condition of entry to the shopping centre. A security officer does not have permission to conduct a search without your consent and you may withdraw your consent at any time during the search. However, a shopping centre may remove or refuse entry to a person because they did not allow a search, or refused to open their bag or remove their jacket or overcoat.
A security officer cannot:
- Arrest you on the suspicion that you have committed an offence.
- Use excessive force in any situation.
- Ban you only because of your age, unless it is a legal requirement (e.g. at a licensed venue).
- Ban you because of your ethnicity, mental illness, disability or because you are lesbian or gay.
- Ban someone from a space near the shopping centre such a footpath outside the building.
Security guards at special venues
Security Officers have the delegated property rights of their employers. That means they can act to protect property or to demand that other people leave private property in accordance with the law of trespass. They can stop you from entering a venue if you do not have a ticket or other right of entry.
On Commonwealth properties, Australian Protective Service officials have powers of arrest people they reasonably suspect of having committed an offence on that property.
If a security guard at a special venue is reasonably suspicious of something, he/she is entitled to ask questions, before allowing someone to enter the venue that they are protecting or restricting access to.
Where can I make a complaint about security guards?
You can also complain to the Security Industry Registry. All complaints need to be made in writing. Complaints are not accepted over the phone. Written complaints must be sent to the Security Industry Registry, Locked Bag 5099, Parramatta, NSW, 2124.
What if I have been wrongly searched?
An illegal search may amount to an assault.
An illegal search may arise:
- where an officer does not have any reasonable grounds to search you
- where an officer searches you without introducing themselves and informing you of the reasons for the search,
- where you are searched by an officer of a different sex
- where the search is excessive and beyond the officer’s powers.
If an officer has used excessive force or has acted beyond their powers of search, you may make a complaint and/or take legal action against them for assault. You may even be entitled to compensation for the assault if you have suffered injury as a result.
What if I have been wrongly arrested or detained?
An illegal arrest or detention by a transit officer or police officer can sometimes amount to false imprisonment.
False imprisonment occurs when a person (including a police officer) restrains your freedom, even for a short time, by the use of force or threat of force without a lawful reason. False imprisonment can arise in situations such as:
- where an officer arrests you based on an unreasonable belief you have committed an offence
- where an officer arrests you based on a mistake
- where the officer acts beyond their lawful powers of arrest and detention (such as keeping you in custody for an unreasonable amount of time).
The effect of false imprisonment is that the arrest or detention is against the law and you may be able take legal action against the officer. If you have suffered injury, torment or harm as a result of the false imprisonment, you may even be entitled to compensation.
If you feel you have been wrongly detained, arrested or searched, you should seek advice from a solicitor, community legal centre or Legal Aid about the possibility of taking action against the officer(s) involved.
Last updated May 2010
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