Use of Force…or Hulk Smash!!!!!!!!!


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.


* 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.

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