Abracadabra!!!!!

What do bouncers and magicians have in common? If you answered top hats, white gloves, and waxed moustaches, you are amazing……ly incorrect.

Seriously though, what do they have in common? Both magicians and bouncers use distraction techniques.

Magicians use distraction to keep you from noticing how they perform their trickery. Bouncers use it to get you out of a club, gather information about your state of sobriety, or keep you relaxed while they discretely call for backup.

Let’s first examine why distraction techniques are an important part of a bouncer’s bag of tricks…

It is a known fact that alcohol severely restricts attention while arousing our aggressive tendencies. And according to research studies, in hostile situations, drunks who are inclined toward violence tend to focus on aggressive, provocative stimuli. Nothing is more unpredictable than a violent drunk and anything that you can do to get their attention and pull them away from their source of agitation may get them to work with you instead of acting out in a violent or aggressive manner.

There are two types of distractions: physical and psychological. Both are viable and they can often be used together. A drunken patron’s restricted attention is often narrowed to the most obvious, attention-grabbing thing and a good question or loud noise can fully consume an intoxicated individual’s diminished mental capacity.

Physical distractions are anything that gains someone’s attention via auditory or visual means. Here are some examples:

  • Waving a flashlight on a group of patrons during an altercation
  • Snapping your fingers in front of an individual’s face
  • Lightly grasping a patron’s elbow or placing your hand on their shoulder
  • Clapping loudly while maintaining a calm tone of voice
  • Loudly announcing “Security! Break it up!” when approaching an altercation
  • Turning on the “house” lights at the end of a night

These techniques tend to work better in a smaller, quieter environment as noise and light help to jar individuals out of their “zone” and back into “reality”. In larger nightclubs, use of flashlights is often the best way to get an individual’s attention. (If you are going to use a flashlight, aim it DOWN at their chest or waist, not UP into an individual’s face…unless it is your intention to blind them)

One of the best techniques I have seen (and used) for getting an intoxicated individual’s attention is to ask for their ID and walk out the front door with it. Unless completely blacked-out, the patron WILL follow you. After all, everybody wants their ID back! (This also works wonders when try to remove an individual from the premises without resorting to physicality.)

Psychological distractions are also useful. The key with these techniques is to try and hit on a distraction that is important to the individual or captures their attention. This can be an item, person, or situation. Using the distraction in the form of a question is best.

Some good examples:

  • “I like that coat you have on. Where’d you get it?”
  • “Can you tell me where your friends are?”
  • “Do you have your ID with you?”
  • “How crazy was that game tonight?”
  • “What kind of drinks have you had this evening?”

(Notice that we ask, “What kind of drinks?” not “How many?” This makes the individual think, allowing you time to assess their sobriety level during the question and based on their response. If they answer “Six.” there is a good chance they’re intoxicated)

Getting the patron’s attention, having them cooperate with you, and keeping yourself safe are the ultimate goals. By asking distracting questions you are getting the patron to focus on you, which in turn will help you to build a rapport with them. Though you may be about to remove them from the premises, distracting them with random questions and a light manner can often get them out the door before they realize what happened.

But how do you get them out the door now that they are distracted?

As the announcer says…Tune in next time!

Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em!

I’m sure that you are all wondering, “What does MC Hammer have to do with nightclub security?”

Absolutely nothing.

But the words “Don’t Hurt ‘Em” are important and have a lot to do with nightclub security. In the last post, I discussed Use of Force and gave an example of poorly applied Force. Today, I’ll focus on ways that being physical can be avoided, using last post’s video clip as a reference point.

More often than not, one is exposed to verbal abuse and harassment while working in a bar or nightclub. People have a few drinks and get angry, or depressed, or just plain rude. And sometimes that rudeness is direct at you!

First off, you have to realize that it is part of the job, just as much as breaking up fights, picking up glasses, or standing underneath a pounding speaker on a crowded dance floor. You can’t take the verbal abuse personally, NO MATTER WHAT THE PATRON SAYS! Second, remember that while you may be the target of this abuse, it is usually because of something or someone else. Yes, there are occasions when patron anger is directed at you, but regardless of the source of anger, your action and response is what will dictate the direction of the ensuing conversation.

So what to do if you are being harassed? Here are some solutions that will help avoid physical confrontation:

1) Use of Language – Vocal tone and body language can make the difference in any situation. Explain how the patron’s behavior is affecting their safety or the enjoyment of others, and offer a possible solution. Let the patron know what they are doing wrong (“Sir, you are trespassing right now/getting a little too close to me/that language isn’t necessary”), what they can do to remedy their actions (“Can you take a few steps back for me/clear this walkway/keep it down?”) and what will happen if they do not (“We will have to ask you to leave/we are going to be forced to call the police”).

This use of language not only lays out action and consequence, but also gives you as the bouncer a stronger legal footing should you have to resort to using some sort of physical force. The key to using language is stay calm and collected. Be respectful but FIRM in your statements. Do NOT yell. You are trying to de-escalate, not incite. Patrons must ALWAYS be treated with respect, regardless of how their behavior has been affected by alcohol.

2) Ignore the Intoxicated Patron – In a situation where you are standing with another bouncer or are in an area that gives you freedom of movement (behind a rope/on an open patio), ignoring a drunk patron can work wonders.

In last post’s video clip, the Patron is obviously aiming his anger at Bouncer #1. Bouncer #1’s best move is to ignore him. Detaching yourself from a situation can often resolve the problem immediately. The drunk isn’t getting your attention, so he’ll move on. Does this mean that you stop paying attention to the intoxicated individual? No. It means that you stop giving that individual attention. No eye contact, no verbal contact. Do not engage them. It is easy to ignore someone and keep them within your peripheral vision and scope of awareness. An intoxicated individual has a short attention span and by removing yourself from their scope of attention, you are in essence removing yourself from their brain.

3) The Buddy System – Remember needing a “buddy” during field trips in elementary school? Hopefully, you are working with a team or at least one other individual in your bar or nightclub. And this “buddy” can be indispensable when dealing with a troublemaker.

Let your partner (in the case of the video, Bouncer #2) step in if you are having problems with a patron. Many times, a drunk’s attention is easily disrupted by the appearance of an individual not involved in the initial conversation. Does this mean that Bouncer #2 should get in the patron’s face? No. But he can help to diffuse the situation by acknowledging the troublemaker and deflecting the anger aimed at Bounder #1. This also allows Bouncer #1 to reassess the situation/walk away/get more back up/call Law Enforcement.

Add these tips to your bag of tricks and give them a shot next time you are dealing with an intoxicated patron who is bent on getting your attention.

We’ll talk drunks and distraction next time. But for now…Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em!

Use of Force…or Hulk Smash!!!!!!!!!

PART ONE

In this upcoming series of posts I’ll be dealing with the some of the most overlooked parts of a bouncer’s job: Use of Force, Self-Defense, and Negligence.

When people think of bouncers* one of two images generally come to mind: a thug who wants nothing more than to give you attitude, loves to get into fights, and “kicks ass”…or Patrick Swayze in “Roadhouse”.

Thankfully, very few fall into the second category or we’d have a lot of well-coiffed, tai chi practitioners in too-tight jeans using the Kung Fu Eagle Claw as their finishing move. But the unfortunate reality is that a large percentage of bouncers fall into the first category. Bouncers are hired as “liability limiters”. It is their job to limit liability through their observation and actions. But these actions often do the opposite and lead to liability.

USE OF FORCE…or Hulk Smash!!!

Bruce Banner gets angry, he turns into The Hulk. And The Hulk likes to SMASH things! Many, many bouncers approach their job with the “get angry and smash things like The Hulk” attitude. Individuals working in nightclub security are often woefully ignorant when it comes to “Use of Force” and the scope of meaning that those words encompass. This leads not only to increased physicality but also to the increased potential of serious injury and liability.

Here is a quick refresher on Use of Force**:

According to Section 3268 of the California Code of Regulations, California acknowledges five types of use of force. Reasonable force is a force that a trained correctional employee would deem necessary and reasonable to control an incident to subdue, overcome or gain compliance of the aggravated source. Unnecessary force is when a correctional officer uses force when force is not an appropriate action. Excessive force is more force used than necessary to control a situation. Non-deadly force is force that will not end in death. Deadly force is force that can kill.

While security guards are NOT correctional officers, the scope of the law does limit their actions.  So what is “reasonable force” in plain English? Well it means simply to not be excessive, under the circumstances. You should consider the seriousness of the patron’s crime/action, the risk of harm for everyone involved, and the immediacy of the situation before deciding to use force. Think of it this way: if you walk by an altercation and one individual is being physical with another to the extent that it makes you uncomfortable, you are probably watching an IMPROPER Use of Force.

I present the following video clip as an example of what I perceive as an unreasonable Use of Force. It is a long clip, and I’ll be breaking it down in the weeks to come. I suggest you begin viewing at 2:45 and watch through to 3:50.  I’ll call our characters Bouncer 1, Bouncer 2, and Patron. (Since I was NOT at the scene and did NOT see what happened prior to the beginning of the videotaping, I am formulating my opinion based strictly on the videotaped material)

The Problems:

1) The Choke (3:05) – My initial reaction to Bouncer #1’s choke is “Oh no…” Why? Well, while he was being antagonized and the Patron was relatively aggressive in his body language, at NO POINT prior to the choke did the Patron become physical with Bouncer #1. In fact, it is Bouncer #1 who initiates the physical contact. So there’s the problem: if no one touches you, it is hard to justify touching them.

2) The Takedown (3:12) – After the questionable throat grab comes the Judo throw. This is an escalation of force that is completely unwarranted, especially when combined with the hand around the throat. This just went from what could have been a relatively easy situation of resolve to a serious physical altercation. Add to it a continued choke and you have just entered the realm of serious liability.

3) The Continued Choke (3:40 and on) – Part of me wonders if Bouncer #1 trains in martial arts, because he definitely works a variety of chokes on the relatively subdued Patron. It’s almost as if he’s trying out a different choke every 30 seconds or so. Due to the fact that the Patron is pretty much unresponsive and non-combative, the chokes (and their  variations) are just plain unnecessary.

So what to do in a situation like this? Next post I will offer some alternative courses of action and continue to break down the video clip. In the meantime, feel free to comment or add your own observations.

DISCLAIMER STUFF:

* I will use the word “bouncer” when describing an individual who works in nightclub security, because let’s face it, the public knows most nightclub security staff as such.

** “Use of Force” and its definitions vary from state to state. Always become knowledgeable of the statutes in your particular area. I am not, nor do I claim to be a legal expert in any way, shape, or form.

So it begins….

Welcome to The Majesty!

The Majesty this an open forum for analysis, commentary, and discussion on the current state of nightclub security. The goal is to entertain, inform, and ultimately educate our readers on topics from client ejection to ID checks and everything in-between.

The format will be casual: a story here, an anecdote there, but always with a bit of humor and some (hopefully) insightful commentary.

You may ask, “Why is the blog titled ‘The Majesty’?”. Well, many years ago, when working the door of a nightclub, my co-worker and I would say, “The Majesty…” whenever faced with a ridiculous situation: be it a fight, a drunk, or just plain customer stupidity. It was a sarcastic term of endearment that pretty much summed up working in the industry.

Feel free to chime in with your own stories and comments. Again, we are all about open discussion.

WORDS OF WARNING:

Flaming, insults, racist commentary, trolling, and generally stupid or bad behavior will be dealt with by Post/Comment deletion. Kind of like being in a bar: act like an adult and you’ll be treated like an adult!