Weapons in Nightclubs

Safety is one of the greatest concerns you have as a Security Staffer. Working in a dimly lit, noisy environment, full of semi- to heavily intoxicated individuals of every possible background should be enough to make anyone sweat a little. Add to that the reality of your job being to limit liability in said environment and you can see why not many people work in the field for very long. We have written in much detail about the dangers of the job and what you as a professional can do to mitigate the risks. But one subject has not been broached until now:

WEAPONS

I’m not talking about weapons being carried by Patrons, but weapons being carried by people on Staff.

Before I get too deep into the subject, let me say this: everyone has their own opinions about carrying weapons – regardless of type – and the use of said weapons in a dangerous situation. When I say “weapons” I mean any tool that can be used in an offensive or defensive capacity, whether it be a flashlight or a gun. I am not here to advocate one way or another. I am here to point out the dangers of possessing/carrying a weapon from a LIABILITY standpoint, and things that you should take into account should you decide to carry a weapon.

Every city, county, and state in the Union has their own laws governing the carry, possession, and use of weapons while on the job. Before you consider whether or not to carry a weapon, you MUST research the laws and ordinances in your city/county/state. Just because a Manager or another Security Staffer says, “Oh, that’s alright everyone here carries xxxxxx” DOES NOT make it legal. You could be setting yourself up for serious trouble should you break the law in this respect. Do your research and if you are not comfortable with your understanding of the law, either ask an attorney or DON’T CARRY A WEAPON.

Should you decide to carry a weapon, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

WHY?

Are you carrying to make yourself feel safer or does the job call for you to be armed? If the job calls for you to be armed, are you comfortable working in an environment that necessitates a weapon? Chances are if the environment calls for weapons, it is a step above your basic bar and grill. Or maybe it is just a matter of fact that weapons are carried by the Staff in this particular establishment. Either way, why are YOU carrying a weapon?

WHO?

Are the people around you also armed, and if so, do you feel comfortable being around them? You might have serious reservations about some of your co-workers carrying any type of weapon. If this is the case, you may want to reconsider your place of employment.

WHAT?

There is a big difference between carrying a heavy flashlight and mace and carrying a handgun. What are the Polices and Procedures when weapons are carried by the Staff?What type of weapon is required for the job? Are you providing said weapon or is your employer? If your employer is providing the weapon, what type of insurance are they carrying? What type of insurance are YOU carrying? Remember, we are talking about liability here. Who has the coverage should something go wrong?

WHERE?

If your employer is providing the weapon, where is it being stored? Are the weapons accessible to the public or just the Staff? Will you be carrying the weapon with you at all times or checking it in and out of somewhere? Are you bringing the weapon with you, and if so where can you store it?

HOW?

How is the weapon to be used? Most important, do you actually know HOW to use the weapon? A lot of people carry knives, batons, or handguns for security work with only the minimum necessary training. I would HIGHLY suggest that if you are one of these people, you start to train constantly, consistently, and under duress. Whacking a tree in your back yard, shooting at the range, and playing with your knife in your bedroom are far different than accessing and using your weapon while under pressure in an adrenalized state. Learn to use what you carry.

WHEN and WHY?

When do you imagine that you would need to use your weapon? Without venturing too far into the Use of Force continuum, at which point would you be comfortable using a weapon? There are very few situations in which use of a weapon is needed or called for in a nightclub environment. That just the plain facts. As a matter of fact, I would proffer that if you need to use your weapon, something has gone horribly wrong or you have not done your job correctly. Can things go horribly wrong? Absolutely. But I am betting that with good Situational Awareness, a little Verbal Judo, and a bit of Scenario training, you can be prepared to meet 99% of situations with a clear head and without using force OR a weapon. Heaven forbid you access and use you weapon, only to have something like this happen.

I want to make it clear that I am also writing to those of you who carry a knife or pocket stick or tasers or whatever. Should you use a weapon, there WILL be an investigation. And even if the law falls on your side, that doesn’t mean the damages you caused by using the weapon won’t be sought after in a civil case. You should very seriously consider the questions above should you decide to work while armed as well as the possible consequences should something “go south”

Don’t get me wrong, there are many instances in which self-defense is called for, even demanded. But you’re always going to have a hard time defending your use of a weapon against a civilian, regardless of danger level. Remember, you are not an officer of the law, you are a hired security guard and the rules are VERY different.

Until next time…

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…

Wrist Locks and Submissions and Joint Manipulations…Oh my!

As our goal here at the Tao is to inform, we find it necessary to revisit certain subjects with some regularity. One of those subjects is Use of Force. While some might see this as proof that Nightclub Security are fixated on being violent, the opposite is true: our goal is to minimize the Use of Force or to remove it from the Ejection equation altogether. However, the reality of the Nightclubs (and their accompanying consumption of alcohol, hierarchical male behavior patterns, and no shortage of foolish behavior) is that this combination of factors unfortunately leads to incidences of physical contact between Staff and Patrons. To this end, it is necessary regularly address not only Use of Force, but its correct and incorrect applications.*

In 99% of the entertainment venues where we’ve consulted, we’ve heard someone say, “We wrapped the Patron up and escorted him out”. And 99% of the time the escorting was done with some type of lock or manipulation. The question of whether or not the Staff was correct in use of the lock will NOT be addressed here. But the reality of using these tactics will. There is a reason that locks and manipulations exist: they are helpful in subduing individuals who are dangerous, violent, or resisting you in some way. Unfortunately, the proper application of these locks and manipulations is oftentimes overlooked or just plain ignored.

WRIST LOCKS AIN’T EASY

Let’s start by removing the myth of the “easy” submission. The “real world” application of any type of lock, manipulation, or submission is far different than the application of the same in a controlled environment. Most martial artists are introduced to these techniques in class, with a compliant partner. But very few are asked to apply the same techniques against someone who DOES NOT want to be locked up or submitted. Keep in mind that no one wants to be submitted. There is a basic feeling that keeps people from being locked up…PAIN.  In most cases, grabbing an intoxicated Patron – without even attempting to apply a lock – will cause them to resist. Attempt to apply a lock or submission in this scenario…and more often than not it will fail due to resistance. In addition, should you be able to apply your technique, the second that the Patron in question feels PAIN, they will react by trying to get out of the lock or manipulation or submission as quickly as possible.

One of the potential problems which occurs is that the person attempting to apply the lock will OVERCOMPENSATE and use excessive force to set the lock and/or manipulation. Add to that the fact that alcohol dulls pain (in this case on the part of the Patron) and the end result is something getting torn, ripped, or broken. As a matter of fact, one of the most common injuries to martial artists in training are as a result of excessive force being applied in the attempt to submit! And these are individuals who are expecting to be submitted. So, do you avoid “over-excitement” in the application of any submission technique?

TRAINING

The only way to get better at something is to train. Period. Want to get better at submissions? Train. Want to perfect wrist locks? Train. Feel the need to develop a sweet armbar? Train. Training does a few things:

1) It helps you realize that the “real world” is different from dojo world. People resist and often in creative ways. How will you discover how to work the lock with them, against them, or even move on to another possible manipulation? By constant attempts at application. And by constant attempts at application UNDER PRESSURE. Training should be as realistic to the scenario as possible, while remaining safe. (We can discuss quality of training in another post)

2) Training helps you refine your technique. There is a reason that even professional fighters and martial artists have favorite holds: they work what works for them. Some techniques will work on some people better than others. And some techniques will work more comfortably for you than others. Only by working a variety of techniques against a variety of partners can you find what “works”

3) Working submissions regularly more importantly give you an idea of what the human body is capable of handling. Meaning that you will know how 95% of the population will move and react to having a lock applied. Human anatomy is fairly consistent. True, there are those among us with incredible flexibility and high pain tolerance. But most humans’ bodies don’t take a lot of pressure to feel pain or discomfort. With constant training, one can come to understand by “feel” when the body is reaching its discomfort areas. Which, in the long run, can keep you from “over excitement” when it comes time to apply a hold in the real world.

APPLICABILITY

So now you’ve trained and you understand that you can’t just “put someone in a wrist lock”. The next question you should ask yourself (and one you should continually ask yourself while working Security) is, “Do I have to apply the lock/hold/submission when escorting someone from an establishment?” Ultimately, this comes down to where you are in the Use of Force continuum. Have you exhausted all options prior to putting your hands on someone? As far as we are concerned, if you have gotten to the point where getting physical is necessary, you’ve already lost the battle. But the perfect world where everyone is sober, gets along, and follow directions does not exist. Which is why things like locks, holds, and submissions where invented in the first place!

Careful consideration should be given to Use of Force, regardless of the type of force. Unless you are properly trained in the use of locks, holds, and submissions, you should probably err on the side of caution and NOT use them. Even with proper training, a thoughtful examination of the scenario in which you find yourself should be undertaken before going “hands on.” In the long run, it will not only make you a safer employee, but a more knowledgeable and tolerant Security Staffer.

Until next time…

* We will ALWAYS state that use of control tactics opens you and your Staff to a world of possible liability. And in turn, this can lead to criminal and civil lawsuits. We DO NOT condone Use of Force and ALWAYS recommend using every other option available to you and your Staff prior to putting your hands on ANYONE. The Use of Force continuum exists for a reason, mainly to cover you and your Staff’s behinds. We cannot emphasis this enough: IF YOU OR YOUR STAFF USE FORCE IMPROPERLY OR USE IT IN THE WRONG SITUATION YOU WILL BE SUED.*

Bouncer Fails…at everything

Every once in a while, I come across some material that is so beyond the pale as to be almost unbelievable. As a matter of fact, when I first watched the video I am referencing, I thought it was a set up, a fake. And part of me still hopes that it is. But the part of me that has to deal with Security Staff on a regular basis – especially poorly trained Security Staffers with the wrong idea of how to do their jobs – knows that this is all too real.

WARNING: This video is graphic and violent.

Usually when I post a video, I try to break it down and analyze it. Not in this case. What happens here is an assault, plain and simple. And if you watch the video carefully, it is a premeditated assault.

Please read our posts Just Walk Away and To Fight or Not To Fight. As one of my mentors says, “Don’t be this guy.”

Until next time…

Bouncer Fails

Every month I like to do a little Googling of the word “Bouncer” and see what comes up. The results are usually some type of fight video or altercation between a Bouncer and a Patron. And in about 50% of the cases, the Security Staff are too hands on. If you read my last post, I made a big deal out of “being nice”. When you watch a lot of these videos, you can see that the Staffers are either not being nice or they are allowing the customers to get the better of them.

What I mean is that the Patrons keep pushing the Staffer’s buttons until the Staffer “snaps” and get “hands on”. Basically, the individual running the door runs out of patience or they let their emotions get the better of them. Either way, it’s a huge problem. Ultimately, your job in Security is to protect people, not put them in harm’s way or cause the harm yourself.

In the following video, I see an example of a complete loss of composure by the Doorman, accompanied by some very serious lapses in situational awareness by all of the Security Staffers involved. First, let’s look at the video*:

(Be forewarned, the language is NSFW)

Not pretty is it? I see an intoxicated Patron (yes, he’s annoying, but that’s besides the point) being pushed around for no discernible reason. So let’s break it down a bit:

00:00 – 00:34     Just Another Night?

The Patrons are drunk and there is some kind of dispute trying to be resolved. So far, nothing out of the unusual. BUT…

FAIL #1 – The Staffer in the black jacket has his hands in his pockets. Why? The worst thing you can do in any situation involving a possibly dangerous or suspect individual is talk to them with your hands in your pockets. You’re asking to get hit.

00:35 – 00:51     The Trouble Starts 

The Patron approaches an individual who I assume to be the Manager. The Staffers intervene, which is understandable, but their pushing of the Patron is waaaaaaaay over the line. Not only that, but when the Patron returns, they just stand there, not creating any type of safe zone around themselves, even going so far as to let the Patron bend down and pick something up off the ground.

FAIL #2 – The Patron could have very easily used this as a distraction to grab a weapon (in his off hand) OR  jump right up with a head butt or attack on either Staffer. Bad Situational Awareness. Is the Patron verbally abusive? Yes. But hey, everyone has been cursed at. Suck it up.

00:52 – 01:10     Things Fall Apart 

Is it necessary for both Staffers to push back the Patron? I would argue no. At this point, the Staffers have escalated the situation.

FAIL #3 – The Patrons are now heated and they are coming back for more. Why does the Staffer in the Black Coat place his hands behind his back? And why do they let the Patrons approach them again without some type of verbal warning to back off.

01:11 – 01:25     Disasters, Inc.

What a mess. Red Coat Staffer actually removes his hat and tells the Patron, “I’m going to give it to you.” Wow.

FAIL #4 – An implied threat of violence accompanied by the act of preparing an attack (hat removal). We just drifted from stupid behavior into possible assault territory.

01:26 – 01:45     How Can We Possibly Make This Situation Worse?

Red Coat pushes the Patron (again), and actually starts instigate a fight, to the point of having to be held back by his partner. And the Staffer in the Black Coat keeps his hands occupied (with a hat), turns his back on his buddy (to put down the hat), and puts his hands back in his coat.

01:46 – The End     Epic Failure

Red Coat is obviously trying to get into a fight at this point. Multiple pushes on the Patron, multiple failures in situational awareness and body positioning, and basically breaking every rule in the book in terms of procedure when dealing with intoxicated individuals.It gets bad enough that they need to bring back up from inside.

Videos like this serve to demonstrate how a situation can turn bad very quickly, especially when accompanied by severe lapses in judgement. Remember it is up to you as a Security Staffer to dictate the conversation and guide yourself, your fellow employees, and yes – even intoxicated Patrons – into the zone of safe conflict resolution.

  • Calm your Patrons down – Use phrases like, “Slow down.” or “Let’s talk this out.”
  • Remove yourself from the situation – If a Patron is angry at you, leave the scene and have someone else deal with it. It doesn’t make you a coward, it makes you smart and keeps you out of trouble.
  • Keep your head and hands up – Always. No matter how safe you feel, anything is possible.

Don’t be like these Staffers. Be intelligent about your approach, patient in your attitude, and DON’T FAIL.

Until next time…

*(as always, any and all video is the property of the YouTube poster and I make no claims as to its authenticity or the actual actions depicted)

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong…

Everyone likes to think that they do a good job, at their job. I’d say that 80% of people do a good job, at their  job. For most, minor mistakes on the job are easily corrected or deleted or can be explained away. In the field of security, minor mistakes can very often take on a life of their own and begin to snowball into bigger problems. And large mistakes can end in disaster, whether liability, injury, or damage to property.

In earlier posts, we discussed Use of Force, Situational Awareness, The Buddy System, and their importance to Security Staffers. We also watched a clip of what I consider to be improper Use of Force. Well, we are now going to return to said clip and break it down even further in a little segment called:

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong (props to Dave Chappelle for the title).

In this segment, we will examine all the mistakes made by Security. You probably want to open the clip in another window for easier viewing.

The Premise: Drunk Patron on the sidewalk, harassing Security.

The Question: What is one to do?

The Clip:

Before we even get into the breakdown, let’s discuss Security wearing any type of dangly party necklace. Don’t do it. Way too easy for someone to grab and use against you. One might snap, but 3-5 necklaces will choke you out.

Minute 2:56 – 3:05

1) Bouncer #1(B1) leaves his post to confront the Patron (P). Why? Let him rant and rave. He’ll (probably) eventually wander off.

2) B1 turns to look at B2 just before he lunges in for the choke. HUGE MISTAKE. Though it may not seem like very long (.5 seconds?) it is plenty of time for P to get in a cheap shot. Plenty of time.

I won’t even go into the applied choke as it is just plain stupid.

Minutes 3:15 – 3:30

3) Why is B2 holding a cellphone? He should be either: helping subdue P (again, this is dependent on what started the altercation. In this case, B1 started it), looking for trouble/P’s friends, or using the phone to call the Police. Not trying to subdue someone while holding a sweet Blackberry. (Failure of Buddy System)

Minutes 3:31 – 3:50

4) B2 WALKS AWAY (?!?!?!?!) – Now, I understand that the bar is busy and you have to watch the door. But you have your co-worker on the ground in an altercation with a Patron, and you are just hanging out in the doorway. Regardless of how “in control” the situation might look, it is anything but. A crowd is building, your fellow staffer is on the ground, and you’re chilling in the doorway. Stupid. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 4:30

5) B2 finally realizes that people are a bit upset and starts to keep an eye on Patrons exiting the bar…

Minute 4:45

6) …but fails to intervene when an Angry Patron gets directly in the face of B1. As a matter of fact, it takes him another 15 seconds to get involved, telling Angry Patron to relax…before walking away AGAIN. (Failure of Buddy System)

Minutes 5:05 – 5:35

7) Now we have an escalating situation: Angry Patrons getting into arguments over an altercation they are not directly involved in. B2 now has the task of watching the door and calming a building confrontation…oh yeah, and B1 is still on the ground.

Minute 5:36

8 ) B2 gets waaaaaay too up close and personal with Angry Patron. Not only is his body language aggressive as he approaches, but he leaves himself no room to defend himself. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 6:01

9) Total Loss of Situational Control. B2 gets pushed by Angry Patron, B1 is still on the ground, the crowd is growing, no one is happy. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 6:35 – 6:45

10) B2 is  now directly engaged with Angry Patron, leaving Good Samaritan Fella to help B1 with the now choked out P1. Starting to get a bit hectic, eh? (Failure of Buddy System)

Minute 6:50

11) B2 walks away and turns his back to Angry Patron, finally coming over to check on B1. (Failure of Situational Awareness)

Minute 7:30 – End

12) At some point in here Bouncer 3 appears. 5 MINUTES AFTER THE INITIATION OF THE ALTERCATION. 5 minutes might as well be a year. (Failure of Buddy System)

I understand that altercations are dynamic situations, adrenaline causes tunnel vision, and general confusion can be, well, generally confusing. But a thoughtful approach to any situation is always beneficial. By taking your time to assess (a few seconds is PLENTY) you can save yourself from escalation, injury, and liability.

I was involved in a similar altercation a few years a back with a fellow doorman I’ll call “Chief” (especially because he hates it). Me and another bouncer had to take an aggressive Patron to the ground. “Chief” did the following:

1) Called the police

2) Gave us space to deal with the Patron by creating distance between ourselves and the crowd

3) Calmed the agitated friends of the Patron

He did it all in a cool, collected manner. This usually attained by years of experience and tons of practice, but that does not mean that you can’t start learning NOW. Pay attention to altercations and you and your staff’s reactions to them, have them watch video like this and break them down, and discuss all incidents at the end of the night so that you can all gain a better understanding of how to better do your job and make sure that when you Keep It Real, it Doesn’t Go Wrong.

Feel free to chime in with any other pointers or suggestions, the crew in this video obviously needs them.

’til 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!