California security and alarm licensing update

Bureau of Security and Investigative Services faces more applications, tighter budget


San Francisco, CA, Dec. 10, 2010 -- During the California Alarm Association (CAA) winter convention, attendees were privy to an industry licensing update from Jeffrey Mason, Chief of the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. The BSIS is the state organization that issues licenses for alarm company operators and employees, locksmiths, private investigators, security guard services and employees, repossession agents and others; the bureau also issues firearm and baton permits for these associated workers.

California has faced severe budget deficits, and incoming governor Jerry Brown is warning that the state's budget deficit could grow. Simultaneously, Chief Mason said the BSIS is facing a marked increase in license applications.

He said the bureau saw an 18 to 20 percent increase over the previous year in applications for licenses, but noted his bureau is challenged by the state budget and that they can't hire more people to help process those license applications. With that challenge, he described his mission as bureau administrator this way: "We are either going to get better and more efficient, or we are going to see license [application processing] times drag out."

Fortunately, the Bureau seems to be getting better at license processing, and Mason understands that the bureau's efforts directly impact the state's economy.

"In 2009 it took an average of 48 days to get a California license to become a security guard," Mason said in his address to the CAA. "Now it's down to 24 days. We recognize that the slower we are at licensing, we hold back the economy, because that means extra days or weeks before these people can collect a paycheck."

On the guard services side, Chief Mason said that California has approximately 73,000 licensed security guards, and despite that high number, the bureau has been able to drop the processing time in half thanks to many officers applying online at the BSIS website. Some 70 percent of those guard license applications are now received online.

On the alarm front, Chief Mason said the bureau saw in an increase in the number of applications for summer alarm sales person. He said the applications usually come to the bureau in April and May, but due to the checking of fingerprints (which are sent to the Department of Justice), the final license issuance isn't received sometimes for eight or nine months -- well after the summer sales season ends. The California law does allow the alarm salespersons to work under a temporary license until the application is fully processed and the final license issued.

For information on security guard licenses in California, the BSIS provides the quick-reference "Guide to License Types" (PDF file). The bureau also publishes a condensed Alarm Company Fact Sheet which provides an overview of alarm company and alarm company employee licensing.

ADT's Jon Sargent (who was honored with the CAA George A. Weinstock achievement award at this year's convention) said that, as part of his efforts with SIAC, he distributes printed copies of the BSIS reference guides to municipalities and law enforcement. He said he sees this as an effort to maintain good relationships between the security industry and local government, and said the guide helps law enforcement recognize valid licenses of security and alarm personnel.