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…

 

 

 

 

 

Patron Ejections and Escorts

Over the past few years, I have written more than a few posts on Bar fights, Ejections, over-intoxicated Patrons, and how to How to Minizmize Nightclub Ejections. I wanted to take some time in this post to breakdown ejections a bit more and give you and your crew some more material to ponder.

It is important to remember that many of the Patron ejections you will deal with are cases of over-intoxication. Some of these individuals may be compliant, while others…not so much. Remember, regardless of the level of resistance on the part of the Patron, it is very important that you as a Security Staffer use the minimum amount of force necessary to get them out the door. More resistance on the part of the Patron does not necessarily equal more force on the part of the Staff.

Let’s take a moment to look over what an “escort formation” should look like:

^^^^^ Direction of the Ejection ^^^^^

X (Lead)

3′-5′ spacing

P (Patron)

X (Escort)To the rear and side of Patron, at arm’s length distance

 3′-5′ spacing

X (Follow)

The first position is held by your “Lead”. This Staffer is tasked with two basic assignments: to light the way and to clear the path. You may have noticed that when Patrons are enjoying themselves in an establishment, they can be fairly oblivious to what is going on around them, especially if the bar/club is noisy and crowded. The “Lead” needs to announce – loudly – that they need a clear path! “Coming through, heads up, look out folks, etc.” The wording doesn’t necessarily matter but you need to let people know that you are heading their way.

The Lead should also be no more than 5 feet in front of the “Escort”. This will allow for room to maneuver should the Escort need to restrain the Patron and will cut down on the possibility of the crowd sneaking in-between the Lead and the Escort. In addition to their announcements, the Lead should use a flashlight to light the way and to let people know they are headed in their direction.

The Escort is the key part of the ejection equation. More than likely they are the one who has talked to the Patron being asked to leave and may be supporting them (if they are unable to walk) or restraining them (if they are combative). Their entire focus of attention should be the Patron. The Escort should be walking just behind and to the side of the Patron. If the Escort is not supporting the Patron in any fashion they should be no farther than arm’s length away.

DO NOT stand directly behind the Patron while escorting them out. Should they stop short, turn suddenly, or become violent, a position directly to their rear is not easily defensible. Standing at an offset angle behind the Patron will force them to adjust their stance/gait in order to get to you. This, in turn, will give you the benefit of off-balancing of them AND of protecting yourself from wild swings, elbows, or headbutts.

The “Follow” position is often the most overlooked part of this equation. Their main job is to communicate to the rest of Staff and the Front Door that an ejection is taking place. The phrase, “One coming out, Front/Side/Back Door!” works perfectly and lets the Staff know which exit should be prepared to receive the Patron. The Follow must also deal with those individuals who are interfering with or impeding the Ejection. 95% of the time, when you are ejecting a Patron, their friends want to get involved. If you are lucky, they are just concerned with their friend’s safety. If you are unlucky, they may try to physically interfere with the process. While this is a concern for the entire escort team, it falls on the Follow to provide the physical barrier between the Friends and the Patron/Escort. If necessary, the Follow can call for back-up to help with the ejection process or the Patron’s friends.

Besides providing a physical barrier, part of the Follow’s job is to keep eyes on the crowd as the escort formation moves through it. People reaching out, trying to slip into the escort formation,  or trying to interfere with the Escort: all of this should be handled by the Follow. This means that they are also within 3-5 feet of the Escort at all times. I also suggest the Follow shine their light directly on the back of the Patron’s head. Why? Should the Patron turn, they will get a good dose of unexpected light in their eyes. Will this prevent all problems? No. But it can give you and the team an extra couple of seconds to deal with the Patron while they blink in the light.

During the entire ejection process, the escort team should be talking to each other, moving, and maintaining situational awareness. DO NOT STOP. Stopping provides the Patron more time to argue, allows their friends to catch up, allows the crowd to get involved, and most importantly: impedes your forward progress!

Get moving, stay moving, pay attention, and get out the door.

Until next time…

Happy New Year!

Goodbye, 2015. And hello, 2016! We hope that your year ended well and that the year to come is a healthy and prosperous one.

While we would usually not look back, I find it fitting that this New Year’s Eve video is currently making the rounds. Many of my formative years working Security were spent in the doorway of a nightclub. Looking back on some of those adventures, I only wish that I’d been able to record the interactions that took place. I have to hand it to this bouncer for taking the initiative and doing that very thing. Not only that, but he does his job well and – as far as I can tell – makes it home safely at the end of the night.

For those of you who wonder what it is like to be a bouncer in a club or who don’t realize the constant stream of characters that they have to deal with on a regular basis, here you go. For those of you who look at nightclub security staff with disdain, this might help to give you an idea of the work that they do EVERY NIGHT, and why the job is far more difficult than it appears. Remember, security staffers are people too; so please treat them with some respect!

Another night on the Door

Violent incidents in Nightclub settings

This video was posted in a forum that I belong to and I thought it would be a great tool for examining violent incidents. I hate to armchair quarterback these situations, especially when all of the information is not readily available – or in this case – visible. But I think that there are basic rules in this situation that have either been broken or at the very least, ignored.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

1) Lack of access/traffic flow control – Hard to tell which part of the club this occurs in, but it seems to be either a side room or an entry foyer. Either way there is far too much foot traffic for there NOT to be a Security Staffer posted either in the room itself or in the doorway (at the right). This would alleviate bunching, overcrowding, and facilitate quick access to any trouble that occurs within the space. Control the space and you can control the issues within it or keep them from occurring. Bathrooms and hallways should always have a staffer positioned within or nearby.

2) Lack of definable uniforms – Who is security? Who is not security? Any person on staff should be in a clearly marked shirt (SECURITY) or wearing some type of uniform to designate their standing as a Staffer. Otherwise, you are just another big guy jumping into the melee.

RESPONSE

The Plus 1 Rule – Always have ONE more Staffer involve in any type of disturbance than the number of individuals involved. 1 patron ejection = 2 Security Staff, 2 people fighing = 3 Staffers, etc. There is not much manpower response to a brewing brawl in this situation. By my count, there are 2 security staffers and 6 people in a small room. Not good odds.

The initial response by the bouncer to grab the person with the bottle is technically correct, but not in this situation. Jumping into the fray without backup and without a cursory glance as to what is going on is a recipe for disaster. Once the backup arrives, the two Staffers start to remove the “aggressor” which is again technically the correct thing to do..but they do it while completely ignoring the building fight behind them. This is where things get progressively more questionable. It is hard to tell if they can’t get out the door and why they have stopped. Is there no room to move the man out the left door? Why not eject out the right door? Not enough info to work on here. At the very least, they should be removing themselves from the room until they have the manpower to take on the people fighting.

When it becomes obvious that a weapon is involved, this should (and it looks like it does) become an “All Hands” situation: every available Staffer heads to the incident area, Front Door goes into lockdown, LEOs are contacted, and the area is cleared of bystanders if possible. I work under the philosophy that if you have “lost the floor” i.e. mass brawl, jumping in actually does more damage than good. Let them fight it out while you protect any bystanders that may be in the way until things gets to a manageable point.
POST INCIDENT

Again, it is hard to tell the size and layout of this establishment, but at the very least the Bar and room where the stabbing occurred should be cleared and locked down. First Aid should be rendered immediately to the stabbing victim while other Staffers detain anyone directly involved in the fight (especially the individual with the weapon) and try to find witnesses. Then write up an Incident Report to make sure things are still fresh in your mind. Should this incident carry forward to a trial, that Incident Report will be VERY important.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

Controlling access to entry/watching the line – No more that 3-5 individuals should be allowed in the door at a time, hopefully spaced out to prevent bunching. What is the demeanor of the people in the line? Intoxicated? Aggressive? There should be a Staffer monitoring the line and the sidewalk. Doorman has ultimate say in who comes in and should not – with very few exceptions – be overridden by Management or Head of Security. He/She is the keeper of your door for a reason. And yes, they have the right to refuse service. Many clubs will not let in groups of 4+ men unless they are interspersed with women.

Weapons checks – Every individual entering should be searched for weapons, either by pat down or wand. Dress code can facilitate this: no untucked shirts or overly baggy clothing that can hide knives, guns, blackjacks, etc. This goes for women as well via bag checks.

Gear – Flashlights, radios, stab vests (depending on establishment), and uniforms should be MANDATORY for EACH member of your Security Staff. If your Staff are missing one or more of these items they are a liability and a potential target.

Communication – Does your team talk throughout the night? If there is an issue, do you communicate it to your entire staff? Is everyone on the same radio channel or do different zones have different channels? Does your team know how to properly use their radios?

Training – Do you have set policies and procedures for incidents or situations that may occur? Does your staff know these policies and procedures? Does your staff know how to handle ejections? Intoxicated or aggressive individuals? Fights? Melees? Do you train your staff in ejection, escort, and self protection techniques?

Your team should be holding end of shift debriefs that cover any incidents and individuals that caused problems. This way, you are all on the same page and know what happened throughout the night, throughout the establishment. Training and communication go a long way to keeping your Staffers from becoming statistics. Stay smart and stay SAFE.

Dealing with gangs in nightclubs and bars

A cursory Google Search of Gangs in Nightclubs will give you a myriad of search results and as such reveal that this is indeed a serious issue that is dealt with by many bar and nightclub owners. The common thread to many of these stories is that the gangs had already set up camp within the establishment or were regular Patrons when issues arose. I have heard many people offer solutions to this particular problem, but in my experience the best and most effective way to deal with a gang problem in a venue is to prevent it from becoming a problem in the first place.

Dress Code

There is not a gang in existence that does not display its “colors” in one way or another. This is done as a form of identification both within the gang and to its rivals. It is important to note that in some circumstances a style of dress can also be a form of uniform. And that is where Dress Code comes into the equation. It is important to remember that your establishment is private property and as such you can adopt any dress code you wish. As mentioned previously on this blog, your Dress Code will dictate your crowd. An associate of mine once noted that, “People will act to the level of their dress.” This is an incredibly accurate statement. You will very rarely see people acting badly when dressed nicely. Why? Because people don’t want to ruin their nice clothes. Will there be exceptions? Always. But for the most part: nice clothes = nice behavior.

By instituting and enforcing a Dress Code you are removing the most visible (pun intended) option that gangs have in terms of identifying themselves, something that very few gangs will want to do. Remember, that if you are going to institute a Dress Code you MUST enforce it equally across all of your Patrons. If you do not, I can guarantee that you are opening yourself up to angry Patrons in the short term and lawsuits in the long run. “Out of Dress Code” means just that, regardless of whether the Patron is a college kid or the owner of the bar next door. Post the Dress Code at the door and stick to it!!!

Enforcement of Rules

I’m big on enforcing rules in any environment that has the potential for massive liability. Rules keep you, your Staff, and your Patrons safe from themselves, others, and lawsuits. Occasionally, venues will bend the rules for one reason or another and that may or may not be fine. Remember, you have to always consider the worst case scenario if you do decide to bend a rule. When it comes to removing problematic Patrons – in this case, gangs – from a venue, strict enforcement of the rules is the next step in the equation. Let’s say that a gang decides to comply with your Dress Code but when they enter the bar they constantly get into fights or harass the Staff. Enforce your rules. Fights = ejection. Harassment = ejection. Over intoxication = ejection. Not only do these things equal an ejection from the bar, they should also equal permanent expulsion from a venue. Once a few people in a group start to be denied entry to an establishment, the rest of the group will follow.

I worked with an establishment that had a few problem Patrons. These Patrons would generally behave well, but their “friends” would regularly start fights. The establishment started banning the troublemaking “friends”, but the regulars would always bring new friends or cousins or brothers. What did the establishment do? They 86’ed the problem Patrons with a very simple explanation, “Your friends ALWAYS cause trouble and unfortunately we are going to have to deny you entry.” The Patrons were not happy with the decision, but the bar didn’t have any more issues. Remember YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE.*

Law Enforcement

What if you have enforced Dress Code and your Rules, but still have a problem with gang members in your bar? Well, for one, if they are well-behaved and well-dressed, it doesn’t sound like you have a gang problem. But for the sake of argument, let’s say your well-dressed, well-behaved gang members are just plain intimidating your customers. If they have been willing to comply up to this point, have a direct talk with them and let them know what the issues are. Should this go no where, a very direct response is to involve Law Enforcement.

I am not talking about threatening to “call the cops” or “file a report”. Act in more subtle and effective ways. Let the police department know that you believe you have gang members in your bar and you would appreciate some advice on dealing with them. Next, ask law enforcement to do a nightly walkthrough of the bar. IF you are dealing with gang members who are involved in illegal activity, seeing police officers several times a night will definitely make them want to switch locales. Another option is to hire off-duty police officers to work your security. Known gang members will NOT want to be around off-duty police officers. The rules in your particular State regarding hiring of off-duty police should absolutely be consulted before you take this step.

THE LAST RESORT

If you somehow find yourself ignored by law enforcement or they don’t see the issue as major and you have exhausted all of your other avenues…CLOSE THE VENUE. It seems like a drastic step, but if you are already losing money and clientele, a short closure (2-4 weeks) can’t be much worse, right? During that time, reformat the bar: new dress codes, new rules, new seating arrangements, and if necessary: all new Staff. You need to hire people who are on board with your Zero Tolerance towards gangs stance. When you re-open, you must state in no uncertain terms, that the individuals who were frequenting the bar previously ARE NOT WELCOME. Period. End of Conversation.

Dealing with any unwanted Patrons is a matter of cautious patience. You must be very aware of your attitude and technique as the wrong approach can land you in very hot legal water. Take your time, figure out what the problem with your unwanted guests actually is (dress code violations, rule breaking, intimidation, etc.) and take a slow, measured approach.

Until next time…

*More on this in the next post!

The Dangerous Side of the Equation

It pains me whenever I read articles like this one:

http://www.kansas.com/2014/02/03/3265311/police-man-killed-in-club-shooting.html

First, the loss of life over what was probably a fairly minor incident is tragic. Second, it is a reminder of the dangers of working in entertainment venues. And third, it makes me wonder, “Could something different have been done to prevent the violent outcome?”

Working in any venue where alcohol is being served is inherently dangerous. Too often those new to the industry (and more than a few veterans), believe that dealing with intoxicated individuals is “no big deal” or even chuckle at the idea of “tossing out the drunks”. The REALITY of the job is far different. Intoxicated individuals are dangerous. They are a danger to themselves and to others, especially if they are highly intoxicated. The REALITY of intoxication is that it fundamentally changes the way people think. Besides the loss of motor skills and impairment of speech and balance, intoxication can significantly effect judgement, self- control,caution, and reason. These changes can in turn place intoxicated individuals and those around them in extremely dangerous and volatile situations. And you know who else can find themselves in those situations…?

SECURITY

I do not claim to know what happened in the tragic case above. But based on the regular appearance of stories like this in the news, a basic scenario can be formulated:

  1. Patron acts in non-accordance with venue rules
  2. Patron is asked to leave
  3. Patron resists attempts at removing them from premises
  4. Patron is removed from premises (possibly with unnecessary force)
  5. Patron/Security taunt one another after removal
  6. Patron attacks Security (or vice versa)
  7. Patron/Security is injured or killed

At every point of this scenario, there are a myriad of factors that need to be taken into account. And even when taking those factors into account, every action can span a myriad of other reactions! The bottom line for Security Staffers is very simple:

WHENEVER INTERACTING WITH AN INTOXICATED PATRON, YOU MUST ACT WITH PATIENCE AND PAY EXTREMELY CLOSE ATTENTION TO YOURSELF, THE PATRON, AND THE PATRON’S FRIENDS

Small missteps, the wrong tone of voice, and the wrong attitude (generally on the part of the Staffer) can lead to terrible situations. This can be in a situation as basic as asking someone to move so that you can get by with a stack of chairs or as serious as an ejection. A cool head can quite literally save your life. Things like having back-up, knowing how to deal with intoxicated Patrons, and yes even ejecting people, should NEVER be trivialized or approached with a nonchalant attitude. Watch out for yourself, your co-workers, and yes…the Patrons.

Until next time…

Bouncer Fails…

Not every night that you work the Door is going to be slow and lazy. More often than not you will encounter a situation that tests your limits or forces you to act quickly and decisively. And once in a rare while you will be placed in a possibly life-threatening situation. There are a myriad of scenarios that can occur during the course of your shift, but your approach to each should be consistent, patient, and attentive.

This video clip is an excellent example of how lax attention can have a possibly deadly outcome. We could break the video down second by second, but instead we can look at the major mistakes made.

Mistake #1 – Lack of Distance

From the very beginning, the Doorman is too close to the Patron. Any Patron, regardless of state of sobriety or perceived intent, should be kept at least arm’s distance from you at all times. Many Security Staffers close the gap through what might be considered “posturing”. They think that getting up close might intimidate the person they are dealing with. In reality, this may be seen as an aggressive move and can lead to unnecessary escalation. It also puts you as a Staffer in a serious danger zone.

Creating space between you and a Patron allows you room to move, a clearer view of the Patron’s entire body, and an opening to defend yourself. It also lets the Patron know that you are not crowding them or getting into their personal space, which can help to relax them if they are getting worked up.

Mistake #2 – Busy hands

You should never have your hands occupied with anything other than what you need to do your job while talking to a Patron. Cellphones, cigarettes, cups… not acceptable. These are distractions and occupy important space – namely your hand(s). Should you have to defend yourself, grab something, or move someone, it will be very difficult with something in your hands.

The Doorman not only smokes a cigarette during this entire encounter, but he even places one hand in his pocket while smoking! How does he expect to defend himself?

Mistake #3 – Forgetting the Buddy System

While not always possible, it is HIGHLY recommended that you be in the presence of another Staffer during any encounter you have with a Patron. This not only ensures that you have physical backup should things turn ugly, but also provides you with a witness should anything go awry. There is a reason that every field of Security prefers to work with multiple Staffers: SAFETY IN NUMBERS. You should always have +1 person in relation to the situation you are dealing with. 1 Patron = 2 Staffers, 2 Patrons = 3 Staffers, etc.

When the Doorman’s “backup” finally does arrive, he spends his time dealing with another customer and not trying to figure out what is going on in the situation to his immediate left. As a matter of fact, the distraction that he causes in dealing with the 2nd Patron allows the 1st Patron to pull his knife and stab both himself and the Doorman.

Mistake #4 – Lack of Situational Awareness

You need to be aware of your surroundings, who is in them, and what they are doing AT ALL TIMES. That does not mean that you have to engage everyone and everything. But it does mean that you need to be paying attention. ALWAYS. This Doorman not only fails to keep correct distance and has his hands busy, but he TURNS AWAY from the individual he is addressing. In addition, although the main “threat” the Doorman is dealing with is directly in front of him, he turns to deal with other Patrons twice. Never turn away from an individual. Never. Especially one who is intoxicated and attempting to gain access to your establishment.

The fact that the Doorman does not want this particular Patron in the club means that he should focus his attention on the Patron. Period. While minor distractions can and will occur, the Patron in front of you is your point of focus. Ask yourself, “Why won’t he back up when asked?” “Why does this Patron have a hand in his pocket?” Simple questions that should be running through your head at all times.

Keep in mind that being Situationally Aware is NOT the same as being paranoid. If you are paying fearful attention to something that does not exist, you are being paranoid. Acknowledging what is going on around you without attaching some type of negative connotation to it is being aware.

Stay aware and stay safe.

Until next time…