Security Operative: Questions and Answers

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Your security questions answered

Something a little different this week. This week I’m doing a bit of a rapid fire question and answer session in response to some of the questions received over the past week or so via Facebook and email. There’s also a video version of it to be added to YouTube later if you’re  too busy to read it all. I’m not going to identify the people who asked the questions but thank you to all who did. I’m always happy to answer any queries people may have at any time so feel free to get in touch with whatever questions you might have.
Let’s get started.

Q. 1 What’s the best way to set up a searching procedure on the way into a nightclub?

Firstly I will say that before you start searching people you absolutely have to make sure that you have a search policy and a search procedure in place. Detail why you want to search people, who’s going to do it, are they trained and how are they expected to search. Searching has to be consistent to work. Procedures make sure everybody is working from the same sheet.
Secondly define your search frequency. Are you doing a general search (everybody) or a random selection. Are you allowing backpacks? What items do you not want to enter the venue?
Third set up your search area correctly. Searching should ALWAYS happen behind the access control/ID checkpoint. You need to have a male and female member of staff and if possible a third member as a support and to control flow. Try to set it up under a camera if possible. You will need to provide the right PPE to staff such as gloves etc. and if possible a table or shelf for stuff emptied out of pockets/bags etc. Oh and of course an honesty bin for patrons to dispose of the drink they ‘forgot’ they had. This is a much bigger area than I can cover here so I might do a full article in a couple of weeks

Q2. What do you think of security staff becoming bodyguards?

Not entirely sure on the context but like any area of the industry if it’s a sector that you have a passion for then go for it. I’ve done some CP/EP work in Ireland and abroad and I will give you a quick overview ( bearing in mind my limited experience in the area).
A) The Training is tough and if your only previous security training is the entry-level course you will struggle. I do recommend you research a good training provider and do an accredited course. There’s no legal requirement for this in Ireland but you will be competing for work with many people who will have attained an SIA CP licence in the UK
B) The Irish market is very small and is full of really good quality candidates already so be prepared to struggle to break into work and start at the bottom. Or else be prepared to travel.
C) It’s not glamorous. It’s long hours, mentally draining and not very well paid at the bottom end. There is no armed work in Ireland or the majority of Europe if that’s what you think.
D) If you do not have any previous military or armed policing experience you have absolutely no business looking to go work in a hostile or even medium risk environment where weapons are prevalent. Without significant training or experience in these environments you are a liability ( my opinion and of course there are the odd exception but you probably aren’t one). A weekend with an AK47 in Dubrovnik on a stag party doesn’t qualify you.
If you can accept all that and are willing to work for it then go for it and if I can help please get in touch.

Q3. When you stop somebody outside a door after a security gate alarm goes off is that an arrest?

Firstly let me be clear. You have absolutely no legal right to arrest any person for activating a security alarm. Do not do it. It’s madness but I still hear stories of it being done. It is true that once you step in front of a person who you intend to arrest and deprive them of liberty (prevent them leaving) then you have arrested them. I think the question you’re asking is if you do this in an EAS activation is it not arrest.?The answer is ‘yes’. If you stand in front of a person and they perceive they can’t leave you could be considered as having made an arrest and be exposed to a false arrest claim.Firstly it’s always a good idea from a perception viewpoint for retailers to use staff members and not security to respond to alarm activation’s. A security operative can stand in the background and observe but not be involved. If security are asked to respond to alarm they should never step in front of the customer. They should never mention the security alarm either. A simple statement such as ” Excuse me, I think we may have left a tag on your purchase, would you like us to rectify it for you? ” . There no obligation on the person to comply and whether they have stolen something or not then you have no further options available. Lots more I could add here but again it probably needs a full article.

Q4 What do you think of security staff striking customers? Is it ever acceptable?

Such a difficult question without context. Do I believe a security operative should strike a patron; No . Do I believe that in use of force situations it is sometimes necessary (and reasonable) to apply impact strikes to protect oneself or resolve a situation to calm then; Yes. Let’s be honest once a security operative needs to go hands on in a force situation both the operative and the employer have lost the perception battle. Striking is probably the worst looking level of force from an outside perspective but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary sometimes. Now don’t take this as me advocating punching, kicking, head butting etc because I’m not. I think they are a terrible idea in most force situations and should only be used as a last resort when your own life is in danger. However let’s say for instance we are attempting to control a large aggressive patron who is attempting to do significant harm to me, my colleagues or a patron. I attempt to escalate and apply a pain complaint restraint and the person pre-empts my technique with resistance. With an average level of training the average security operative will not be able to control that patron. I have in the past used impact strikes such as an ankle stamp or knee to the thigh or compromise balance and distract a patron in these circumstances so that the restraint can be applied. Some may disagree but what’s the alternative? I don’t enjoy it, I don’t use it regularly but I’m a realist and in a violent environment it is sometimes the only reasonable option. So on the original question. I don’t think it’s acceptable to the public or the patron but used in context impact strikes can be both reasonable and effective.

Q5. My employer said I have to make a minimum of 5 arrests per week in the shop I work in. I’m only 4 months in security and struggling to do it. Any tips?

Answer: I emailed this guy personally and thankfully he has taken my advice and is now with a new employer. I also emailed his previous employer outlining the stupidity of this approach. Arrest numbers should never be a target in retail loss prevention. They put undue pressure on security staff and more often than not result in false arrest claims. Guys working alone  in retail should not be using arrests as a strategy anyway. The safety risk is too high when lone working and the cost of having your only security operative sitting in an office waiting for Gardaí while the shop is unguarded makes no sense. If you are working under the pressure to make arrests make sure you write down your concerns to your manager. A false arrest can have a huge impact on a small business and on the security operative so cover yourself and look for new employment is my advice.

Q6. Just started working in a hospital. Any advice on risks or working long hours?

Answer: Hospital security is a growing area in Ireland. It can be a good earner due to the hours involved but the reality is that you are relying on people continuing to get sick and injured to keep the hours going. This is especially true in the case of one to one patient security. A&E is a high risk position and you need to be both physically and mentally prepared for the level of risk, fatigue and indeed violence. Another big risk is the hygiene risk. Hospitals are filled with bugs and viruses and you will come in contact with them. You need to have excellent hygiene standard in terms of hand hygiene and grooming  but also in terms of uniform and footwear etc. Get into the habit of not wearing your uniform around your home and leave your shoes in the car. Start taking some multivitamin for immune system and shower as soon as you get home. This is especially important if you have children or elderly relations at home who may have lower immunity levels.

Q7. Thoughts on wearing a groin guard to work in nightclubs?

Nothing against it but also haven’t done it in years. When I was young once or twice maybe but rarely. Personally I prefer to work on proactive stuff like situational awareness, positioning and proxemics to minimise the risk rather than relying on a piece of plastic should the worst happen. Like I said if you feel the need to use one as a final layer of defence then go for it but I personally don’t. Just remember not to get into a false sense of security because you’re wearing one.

Q8. Worst way you have ever been attacked in security?

Doesn’t matter. I don’t dwell on them. Violence is a process in the security industry. Manage it, learn from it and move
on. Every single incident has potential to cause serious damage so saying one guy was worse because of his size or one was worse  because of a weapon or once was worse because there were children involved doesn’t work for me. Treat them all the same and move on. War stories are great from time to time but the forum here is to promote professionalism in security and I’m conscious of new entrants reading it and getting the wrong idea about the job by me telling war stories. There are far better operatives than me who have been in far more serious incidents than I have and it’s a measure of them that nobody has heard those stories. Sorry if that’s not the answer you wanted.

Q9. Do you carry a first aid kit on your belt at work? Think it’s a good idea?

No. I haven’t got an issue with it but when I’m working I prefer not to have lots of stuff on my belt. I have my 80 cent kit in my pocket at all times. I learned working for a contract company early on to always bring a backpack to work and carry the essentials in there including a decent first aid kit. When you are being moved from location to location with a security company you just don’t know what level of equipment you will find on site to I always bring my own to be safe. Not having it on my belt is just personal preference.
 

Q10. What do think about women working in security? There’s a bit of a push to get more working but is it too dangerous?

Simple answer. I don’t. I don’t care if you’re a man or woman. Don’t care about colour, creed or any other difference you and I may have. If you’re a good operator I’ll stand next to you. Of course there is the horses for courses argument which has merit. Some people are better in certain roles than others. The best retail security operative  I have worked with was a woman. She was also over 55 when we started working together and she was many levels ahead of me in terms of awareness and skill. I’ve worked with some amazing female door supervisors over the years too who I would gladly have beside me in a violent situation and who could manage non violent situations better than many of their male colleagues. I’ve also worked with a few terrible male and female security staff. It wasn’t their gender that made them that way though.
I have got some more questions to get to so when I get enough for another session I’ll gladly do one. Thanks for all of the questions and the support guys.

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