Best Practices Model: The Use of "Courtesy Officers" in the Protection of Commercial Residential Property

William E. Thornton, Loyola University in New Orleans
Lydia Voigt, Loyola University in New Orleans

There is a proliferation of civil suits related to premises liability involving third party criminal assaults against tenants residing in residential commercial properties such as apartment and condominiums. In an effort to reduce their liability, many of these property owners utilize the services of "courtesy officers" to protect their property but not their tenants. These individuals are usually off duty police officers who reside in a rent free apartment on the premises in lieu of a salary, those avoiding the status of employees. Apartment owners often stress to tenants verbally and in lease agreements that courtesy officers are not on the premises for tenants' personal safety but rather are there to "monitor" the premises, and that tenants should contact public law enforcement if they perceive that they are in danger. Property owners operate under the false assumption that the use of unsalaried courtesy officers with no formal post orders or accountability as opposed to full time security somehow reduces their exposure to civil liability. We address best practices security recommendations as they relate to the use of courtesy officers and other physical security measures currently used in the residential commercial property management industry.

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Updated 05/20/2006