Special Report: Government Security - Non-Lethal Defense

Selecting the right tools will reduce risk among your force of protection officers

If you have never considered the safety risks of a professional security officer, consider that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over the course of the past eight years, the fatality rate in this line of work has been twice the national average. The exception during that time was 2005, when security guard fatality risk was 67 percent higher than the rest of industry. Your guards are undoubtedly aware of the risk, and they may have even shared a “close call” story with you.

BLS data reveals that more than 60 percent of guard deaths are the result of a violent act, as opposed to falls or other causes. This alarming statistic is evidence that security officers are being outmatched when it comes to defending themselves at their post. An informal survey I ran on LinkedIn validates this observation — 56 percent of the guards that responded indicated that the only items on their duty belt were a radio and/or handcuffs.

Considering these statistics, it is clear that security officers need tools that can help them do their job and protect themselves from violence. Enhanced non-lethal (ENL) devices are designed to help officers protect themselves, while being sensitive to their clients’ concerns towards risk. The goal of ENL devices is to provide “enhanced presence” and de-escalate the potential for conflict by presenting a stronger image of authority to an aggressor.

Today, there are a number of sensible options available for security officers to achieve “enhanced presence” with non-lethal tools — they include ENL devices, conducted energy weapons (stun), weaponized flashlights, batons and pepper spray. But before you can determine the right tool, you must accurately depict the role of your officers.

The tools should be appropriate for the role and enhance the ability of security officers to perform their duties. You wouldn’t ask police officers to kick in a door without also giving them a bullet-proof vest. The same holds true for your guards. If your guards have handcuffs, what other tools do they have to impose their will while they secure a person’s wrists with those cuffs? If the answer is “nothing,” keep reading.


Tools for the Job

Distance + Time = Safety. For security pros, this is an important equation, particularly when considering the items on a guard’s duty belt. The tools on the belt should help maximize the time a guard has to react to a threat while keeping that threat at a safe distance.

Enhanced Non-Lethal (ENL): ENLs are an emerging category of economical tools that combine two or more non-lethal capabilities, as well as an integrated communication or alerting platform. For example, an ENL can combine pepper spray, a disorienting strobe light and a Bluetooth communication module that automatically calls a central desk or field supervisor for support when needed. Products in this category can engage a threatening person at distances of 10 feet and provide a security officer with an escape opportunity. Some ENL devices even have on-board video cameras, which are an excellent means of accurately reporting an incident.

Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW): There is a significant difference between contact stun devices and neuromuscular incapacitation (NMI) devices built for law enforcement. Both are in the CEW category, but contact stun devices require the officer to get within arm’s reach of an aggressive subject. Generally speaking, this is a poor tactic. A more effective, safer option for your guard is a CEW that deploy probes, since these work from a distance of up to 25 feet. When evaluating CEWs, do not accept substitutes; rather, invest in a brand-name device with the understanding that your guard may be deploying a CEW as a tactical tool in a defensive scenario. Even though you may think a CEW may be too much tool for your guards, you need to consider that person’s role carefully before dismissing this option.

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