Law Enforcement and You

When you work in varied fields of Security as many of us do, you start to notice the differences in attitude and pre-conceptions that individuals in each field have regarding one another. If I were to ask five different people how they felt about Police Officers, Bouncers, and Mall Security, I would get five different answers, ranging from “They suck!” to “Couldn’t live without them.” But this post isn’t about what Security Staffers think about Law Enforcement (we’ll leave Mall Security out of this…for now), but how Security Staffers and Bar Management should think about their relationship with Law Enforcement.

Here in California, nightclubs/lounges/bars have to deal with multiple State agencies. And at a future point in time we will discuss these agencies and what part they play in how you do business. Your local Police department fulfills several enforcement roles in regards to your establishment. Some of these are also covered by other departments, but as a general rule, your local P.D. is tasked with:

  • Occupancy levels
  • Intoxication levels of Patrons
  • Age related offenses
  • Crowd control (generally in front of your establishment)
  • Incident management

Many club owners, bar managers, and security staffers have a love/hate relationship with Law Enforcement. They love it when the Police are on hand if a fight breaks out or there is a troublemaker on the premises they can’t deal with. They hate them it if the club is over-crowded or if the Police are standing in the doorway overlooking ID Checks.

There are two realities:

1) Law Enforcement is there to help you. They want you, your Staff and co-workers, and your Patrons to be safe. If you are demonstrating that you are an incident-free venue, Law Enforcement will know that you are serious about how you run your business. And as a result they will take a more objective view of your business should you have to call on them to deal with a problem. Trust me on this, if your establishment has a history of fights, over-intoxicated patrons, and over-crowding, your local P.D. is going to be paying you A LOT of visits.

2) By being pro-active, you are helping Law Enforcement. By not allowing troublemakers into your establishment, having few violent incidents, and turning away over-intoxicated patrons, you are making their jobs easier.

So the question of how to develop a working relationship with Law Enforcement arises. First off, management should always attempt to contact the lead officer on patrol. Many jurisdictions have “Night Life” patrols dedicated to working bars and nightclubs. In some cities this is covered by Vice. A phone call to the Police Department can get you the names and contact numbers of those with whom you need to talk.

Introduce yourself and ask to meet with them. A meeting with the Owner, Bar Manager, and  Head of Security can go a long way in terms of opening lines of communication. This need not be a formal, sit down lunch. It can be a phone call or (more than likely) a sidewalk conversation. I would suggest that you very directly ask them what YOU can do to make their lives easier as well ask what THEY would like to see from you. You might be surprised by what they have to say.

Should the Police arrive at your venue during a night shift, their arrival should ALWAYS be announced. Let’s be realistic: your various zones may be overcrowded, there might be a regular who’s a little too buzzed wandering around, or your Restroom Staffer might be chatting up a young lady (it happens). An announcement of LEO arrival will allow you to take care of any minor issues BEFORE they do a walk-through. Should the Police decide to do a walk-through, they should ALWAYS be accompanied by the Head of Security. That means he or she needs to drop whatever they are doing and come to the Front Door.

During the walkthrough, I make it a point to ask the officers how their night is going and what the general vibe is out on the town. More often than not, you can glean little tidbits of information that will help you as the night progresses. Your Doorman should also hand over any fake IDs that were left behind or confiscated.

Finally, remember to call Law Enforcement if you have a problem that you cannot deal with or are facing a serious issue. The worst possible thing any Security Staffer can do is not ask for help when it is needed. That is why the Police exist in the first place: to help. So why not utilize them? Conversely, you should not be calling every single time you have a problem. This will only make the officers question your ability to run your establishment safely and securely.

Open the lines of communication with the Police department. It will show them that you are being proactive and it will help to make you, your Staff, and your Patrons safer.

Until next time…

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