Another driver for arming is the threat of robbery. Facilities that have cash or other high-value assets such as computer chips or rare art are attractive targets for robbers.
One more threat deserves mention: multiple assailants. Management must carefully assess those situations where an officer or someone the officer has a duty to protect is confronted with more than one adversary. Common examples include sporting events and nightclubs.
Weapons selection requires careful analysis. Knee-jerk reactions to violent events should never drive the decision to arm a protection force, and neither should tradition. A former law enforcement officer may feel comfortable with a handgun, but that does not mean it is appropriate.
Weapons are really only as effective as the user. They must be in the hand of someone proficient with them. This does not mean just trained or certified or licensed — it means being skilled and practiced. The definition of “great bodily harm” or “serious bodily injury” must be firmly understood by all armed personnel as well as those doing the arming.
When Officers Should Use Restraint
Most situations — even some of those outlined above — require diplomacy and restraint instead of the use of force. These situations are challenging because they require patience and tact properly mixed with vigilance. Protection officers must be the “ambassadors” of the organization. They must be masters of customer service while serving as management representatives; and they must remember to keep safety as the top priority while being patient and understanding.
Here’s a look at different groups of people that should be approached with restraint in most cases:
People with communications difficulties: Those who are hearing impaired or speak a foreign language can be a challenge. Having officers receive instruction in sign language through a local human service agency may make a lot of sense in terms of learning, cost containment and community relations.
People with mental illness: The overwhelming majority of these people simply need patience and understanding. They are not violent. Officers need to listen to them, move them to a more private, neutral setting and reassure them, etc.
The elderly: They may have oxygen tanks, walkers, wheelchairs, etc., and they may have limited eyesight and/or hearing difficulties. Speaking to the elderly often means getting close to them and using plain, simple English that they can comprehend. Should force be necessary to control elderly persons, it must be applied very carefully. Restraining techniques designed to create the least possible risk of injury such as the CPI Team Control Position must be used. Verbalization to the subject and those in the surrounding area is essential.
Children, especially teens: Youths often rebel against authority and need to be corrected. Sometimes they congregate in groups, and they are often strong and physically fit. All of these attributes increase the likelihood of difficulty in using force to control them. But it doesn’t end there: An older and larger protection officer restraining an unruly teenager may appear to be a bully. Add ethnic and racial factors to the equation and it becomes even more complex.
Women: A paternalistic attitude may inhibit the correct use of force by male protection officers. This coupled with a fear of damaging a woman’s clothing or touching them inappropriately may make using force distasteful. All of these are valid concerns but must be balanced with safety and the duty to manage the situation.
Obviously, there is a real need for confidence on the part of the officer. This is developed by mastering communications skills and is preserved by having realistic policies and procedures in place. It is bolstered by good communications (radio, surveillance coverage) and adequate staffing levels. Two or more people restraining someone is far superior than a single officer trying to do it. Having help alleviates problems in restraint as well as lessening the probability of an officer losing their temper. In short, it promotes professionalism.