The Security industry is not the Olympics

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Fair fights are for the Olympics not the security profession

This week is going to be a bit of a departure from normal. There are two things that I don’t usually do in these articles. The first is to go on a rant and the second is to comment on individual incidents. In this article I’m going to do both of those things. Over the weekend I have received a large volume of messages and emails and been tagged several times in a video about an incident of violence which has appeared on social media. The video I saw was on the timeline of Liam Tuffs a well known door supervisor and blogger from the UK. It shows two door supervisors being attacked by a group of people. They are being badly assaulted at the start but the tide turns and one of the door supervisors punches an assailant 3 times and leaves him semi conscious on the footpath.The video seems to have been taken down now from some sites but it was captioned with something like ‘this should get some interesting comments’ . Well it turns out Liam was spot on there. The comments were crazy and a combination of ‘the doorman was dead right and ‘he was a thug’. I won’t spend too much time on the video here but I do want to use this article to make two points about these types of incidents generally.

1. Sometimes in this industry we do need to use high levels of force to manage a situation. It never looks good, it’s never reputationally good but it is sometimes necessary (not necessarily the case here)

2. Often times the reason why that level of force has been necessary is because of failures in primary controls by the employer but the door supervisor is the person on camera who takes the hit on social media and public perception.Not the Olympics

Firstly let me say that I am no way condoning what the guy in the video does. I don’t know how he ended up out on the street like that or what happened beforehand. If there were other options such as escape to safety, de-escalation or restraint they should have been used. I’m making general observations based on this and similar incidents. Should he have been out there? Probably no, and we don’t know why he is but I’m not going to just talk about this case here I’m going to generalise.

The security industry is not the Olympics. It’s not about a fair fight with both parties having equal odds but it is a profession. Mostly we will be outnumbered, dealing with irrational behaviour and without the support of the public. C’est la vie and we must accept this and get on with things. It also works the other way as well though. Some of the comments on the video (including from security staff) went along the lines of ‘the doorman shouldn’t have struck him because he was much bigger and the guy was drunk’. I say again ‘it’s not the olympics’ . It’s not fair that the doormen were attacked doing there job nor is it fair that the guy had to be knocked out to stop the threat but it is reality and sometimes reality isn’t fair. Others said he was right to strike him and again I would say it’s never right to strike somebody. Sometimes necessary but never right. As a professional if the guy in this video tries the self defence argument he better hope he’s really good at explaining or has an excellent solicitor.

Lack of context for threat analysis

One of the worst types of threat analysis to do is one were you have incomplete information. This is especially the case when reviewing a video on social media. We don’t know what led to the incident, what happened before the camera started recording, either persons experience/skill levels or either persons thought process. What I do know is that at that point the situation was in crisis management mode and there appeared to be a serious and imminent threat to the safety of both Door Supervisors.Taking this back to a general context there are some basic principles that I apply to threat management. Once a specific threat(s) has been identified:

1. The demographic of the threat is irrelevant. Only the behaviour of the threat is relevant. Size, build, gender, age don’t matter at this point only behaviour.

2. A threat only ends when either it is either completely controlled or left the scene. Just because a person is on the ground doesn’t mean the threat has ended or because they step back it doesn’t mean the threat has ended.

3. When considering the force continuum and reasonable force there is no expectation to try each level of force below the appropriate level to make sure they don’t work before getting to the right level. You can enter at the appropriate level to the situation. This means that if verbal commands or soft touch controls are clearly not workable then you don’t have to try them. Sometimes unfortunately this also applies to restraint. If it isn’t an option then accept it and move up as long as you can justify it.

4. Where multiple threats are present it may be necessary to use a higher level of force to manage an individual taking into account the additional risk present from the other threats. In other words if a person is alone then restraint may be an option but the same person may require a higher level of force if other threats are present.

Having said all of that there is still an onus on is to act in a professional and controlled manner. While the 4 points above may have been met I would question whether he appeared in control of himself at the end. Understandable Maybe but professional maybe not.

Cause and effect

If you think back to school most people remember Newton’s third law of force. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What I mean here is that often the actions we see on these videos have been caused and contributed to by actions, failures and ommissions at a much higher level but it’s the employee who takes the impact on social media. It might shock people if I tell you that the guy being punched in the video was not the most dangerous thing I observed in that video.Some other things:

1. A very large queue had been assembled under what appears to be a scaffolded construction site. The space is confined and the queue is out of control.

2. There appears to be a complete lack of staffing to manage the crowd

3. There is only two door supervisors present throughout the video. This to me is wholly inadequate for the size and crowd profile present.

4. There is no obvious communications equipment present and no support comes from inside the venue (most likely because they weren’t aware of the incident).

If any of the above had been present do you still think the incident would have developed in the same way ? If there was additional support present at the queue or an ability to quickly summon assistance do you still believe it would have been necessary to strike the patron to control the situation. Nobody in the public will see this though. All they will see is the security staff striking the patron and he is deemed a thug or out of control. Again back to the title it’s not the Olympics and it’s not a fair fight. The more we can put in our favour the better chance of success we have and the easier that success comes.

General Control measures

In general the more time and resource investment that is put into primary and secondary controls the less time you spend on emergency response and crisis management. Also when the crisis does occur they can be managed quicker and more effectively if there is sufficient primary and secondary planning. Providing the correct policies, standard operating procedures, Staff levels, training and communication equipment more often that not prevents these type of incidents. When it doesn’t it at least helps to manage them better.

Scapegoat

Unfortunately the easy way out for many businesses is to blame it on individual error and hang the security staff out to dry. On the face of it from public perception that makes everybody’s day happy. Everybody except of course the individual who loses his/her job and possible freedom because they were placed in the horrible situation of having to defend there ability to go home safely to their family at the end of the night. Placed in that situation through poor planing, poor control and an ignorance of an employers duty of care (not talking about that specific incident but in general.

Opinions vary

Before I published this article I spoke to Dave from bouncertraining.ie . He disagrees with some of what I said and believes the guy is completely out of line legally and professionally. Dave is a guy with as many years and probably more than me in this industry. We agree on a lot but differ on some elements of this case. Neither of us condone it and both of use feel that there were more appropriate ways to manage it. However Dave feels there is no excuse and I feel that given the circumstances I see every week in this industry there may be. Both of us are passionate about this industry but our opinions vary here. Based on that go look at the video if you haven’t seen it and judge for yourself. We do both agree that training on how to prevent and manage these situations is lacking here. If you want to read Dave’s full opinion check his post here

Summary

If I’m honest I’m sick of seeing incidents like this and the many more you can search for on the internet. I’m sick of seeing comments from people in the industry saying he or she did the right thing by striking a patron or restraining a patron. It’s not the right thing and will never be the right thing but it’s all too often what we have to do to go home safe. Until we as an industry begin to stand up and demand better conditions from employers it’s going to continue. I’m not picking on all employers here just the ones who cut corners and play with staff safety for an additional percent on the profit margin. They then sack the staff member based on their actions and hope they don’t go to a solicitor or a security consultant who will tear the employers actions to shreds. It’s not fair but like I said above it’s not the Olympics and it never will be as long as we continue to accept it. However we also have a responsibility ourselves. A responsibility to act professionally and within the law. I’m not judging this incident or any other and I’m not going to say the guy was right or wrong. I’m going to say that this industry can be difficult and dangerous and we as employees , employers and even patrons ha e a duty to society to do what it takes to make it safer. What it is though, is the difficult decision to make.

Stay safe out there.

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