When Force is Required

A comprehensive guide in the use of force for security executives and officers

Recent events in Aurora, Newtown, Portland, and countless others have brought protection and the use of force to the forefront of the American consciousness. The use of force against violent, aggressive or resistant persons is a necessity in the protection of people, property and image.

While rare in many environments — perhaps most — it does occur and must be performed in a legal, moral and socially acceptable manner.

Simply stated, force must be used by security officers in order for them to fulfill their overall mission to establish and maintain a stable and relatively predictable environment. The following is a guide to the who, what , when, where and how of using force.


Proactive Prevention

There are serious challenges facing managers regarding the use of force. One is the foundation of what “security” is all about. We can enhance the security mission above through the adoption of the WAECUP Model developed by Bottom and Kostanoski and outlined in the book Introduction to Security and Loss Control, which states that organizational loss is derived from Waste, Accident, Error, Crime or Unethical/Unprofessional Practices. WAECUP makes business sense — its implementation can redirect the security force to become more involved in information/intelligence gathering and to become more proactive overall.

The term “proactive prevention” means relying on early identification of perceived threats and not focusing on responding to incidents after the fact. It is achieved by constant vigilance, observation, reporting and taking limited action. It speaks to the role of the security officer as being an “intelligence agent,” or a collector of information.

If officers understand this and incorporate it into their daily duties, problem situations and people will be identified faster. When officers look for WAECUP issues, they will become better attuned to the environment. When this happens their ability to spot things that are out of order expands, and as a result, they may be more adept at detecting violence-related problems and can see them ahead of time.


Force Defined

The second challenge is knowing what “force” is. Unless a significant amount of study is undertaken, managers may hold all types of misperceptions regarding force. The news and entertainment media distort not only the law, but also the actual application of force. Professional education is the key to dispelling these distortions.

A simple definition is that force is any touching of another person — however slight. Physical contact is force. Touching is force. And touching without legal justification is illegal civilly and perhaps criminally. Aside from the simple definition of actual or applied force, there is constructive force — this is any action or words which would lead a person to be fearful. Tort actions for assault may stem from an aggressive invasion of someone’s personal space. Public perception may also see a security officer being close to and very assertive with a person as brutality.

While an officer being very close to and assertive with someone may or may not technically be force, such actions have consequences. For these reasons, we strongly recommend training in civil liability and interpersonal communication. Competence in these areas makes a protection officer more aware and more effective, and ultimately, the officer becomes more proactive.


Security Postures

There are two types of security approaches or postures: “hands-on” and “hands-off.” Hands-on officers break up fights, arrest shoplifters, and work in the ER or where alcohol is served. They often employ defensive tactics, use handcuffs, OC spray, tasers, etc., and some even carry handguns. Hands-on security personnel often present an enforcement image by wearing police or military-type uniforms.

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