Justified?

This video has been making the rounds this week and I think it is important to examine it for a number of reasons. First off, it is a perfect example of improper Use of Force. Second, it is another example (of which there are many in society nowadays) of how Bad Action + Caught on Tap = Bad Publicity/Liability.

When if comes to security – especially in an environment full of intoxicated individuals -Use of Force is one of the largest “gray” areas that a staffer will need to wade into. To fight or not to fight? To use a chokehold or go for the bearhug? To duck the punch and punch back or just smother the assailant? Besides the internal debate over whether or not to resort to the physical response, there are also the often intangible ideas of how drunk is your assailant, how will your actions be perceived, and so many others.

I tell the bouncers and security staffers that I work with to enter EVERY questionable incident with open eyes, ears, and minds. And to ALWAYS be prepared for the incident to take an unexpected turn. All options are on the table, so stay AWARE. Just because the woman in front of you is drunk and weighs 90 pounds does not mean that she can’t grab a glass off the bar and smash it across your face. I’ve seen it happen. Ditto the 300-pound linebacker looking to start a fight who breaks down in tears because his girlfriend left him and that’s the real problem. I’ve seen that too.

In addition, you shouldn’t enter into ANY situation without a backup of some kind. If you are working solo, this can be difficult if not impossible. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t turn to the bartender and say, “Hey, watch my back for a second.” If you have a team, you want a sidekick with you…ALWAYS. Just the simple acts of being aware and utilizing backup can save your behind.

But back to the matter at hand…

This bouncer ducks a punch from an obviously intoxicated individual and returns a punch in kind. So let’s break that down:

The law says “…[a] person is privileged to use such force as reasonably appears necessary to defend him or herself against an apparent threat of unlawful and immediate violence from another.” In cases involving non-deadly force, this means that the person must reasonably believe that their use of force was necessary to prevent imminent, unlawful physical harm. So, at face value, one could say that he was within his rights to return a punch…sort of.

The word “reasonably “serves a purpose in that paragraph. In my opinion, it is to prevent just what we see in this video! A careful examination of your surroundings, the situation at hand, and your “opponent” should give you a pretty good idea of the Use of Force necessary to deal with the problem. No weapon? Unable to stand? Probably won’t take a lot of force to unbalance or move this individual. Or is the Patron highly agitated and holding a bar stool? You may want to think about the tactics necessary to resolve the situation!

“But,” you say, “didn’t you just say that ANYTHING is possible? What if she was armed?” Well, first off, she wasn’t. Second, based on what I see in this video, the response by the bouncer is disproportionate. I’m not saying don’t defend yourself. I’m saying to be smart about it. Not only can the bouncer here see that the Patron is heavily intoxicated and having difficulty maintaining her balance, but he sees the punch coming from a mile away AND is able to bob and weave under it. In my opinion, his return punch is not only unnecessary but completely unreasonable. And that’s just from a Use of Force standpoint.

From a moral standpoint – and again, this is my opinion – the punch is completely out of line. Regardless of the sex of the aggressor, an individual this intoxicated can be dealt with in any number of ways that do not include physical violence. Whether it be quiet talking, walking away, reasoned conversation, or even completely ignoring the individual, there are plenty of other options available to this Doorman.

Finally, there is the issue of PERCEPTION. How does this look to the general public? Are they going to see a bouncer trying to calmly deal with a heavily intoxicated individual or one who swiftly threw an unnecessary punch? I’m going to venture a guess that most people on a jury would look at this and say, “Why the hell did he hit her?” While the possibility of “pre-video” threats of violence towards the Staffer is possible, the only thing that people are going to see – and probably consider – is the PUNCH. Perception is a VERY important part of the equation when it comes to Use of Force. Which is why maintaining a clear head and considering all of you options is so important. Create space from the problem, reason with the individual, call for backup, and if necessary: PROTECT YOURSELF.

But for the sake of potential lack of freedom and an empty wallet (in the case of criminal or civil charges being pressed), the bar’s sake, and – I would argue – for the sake of the general public, don’t go hauling off and smacking people because you think they deserve it. The repercussions extend far beyond you maintaining your dignity and well into the realm of you gaining a reputation as a violent hothead. Keep your cool, keep your job, and stay out of jail.

Until next time…