Special Report: Government Security - Is Your Guard Force Prepared?

As a government security manager or executive, it is highly likely that one of your duties is the management of a force of protection officers. As such, you as a manager have an obligation to your superiors, clients and subordinates in the proper use of force. This obligation is organizational, legal and moral. Management must do all it can to ensure that officers succeed in their mission by preparing them to use force when necessary in a professional manner and only as a last resort.

Protection officers are human service professionals charged with maintaining a stable environment in which people can work, play, receive treatment, etc., without fear or interruption. Maintaining that stable environment encompasses an array of technical and human service skills. It may demand split-second decision making in whether to use force or not.

Management must equip and prepare their subordinates for the use of force. This begins with a realistic assessment of potential forceful encounters and proceeds into policy, procedure, training and deployment. Ultimately, management is responsible to the officers and other stakeholders. Proper staffing and equipping; continuous professional development which ensures proficiency in crucial job tasks; and supportive yet objective inquiries regarding when force has occurred are all components of this commitment.

 

Manager/Supervisor Duty

When a violent encounter occurs, management’s first duty is to the officers who are the “tip of the spear” for the security organization. Officers not only represent management but they are personally at risk when using force.

Scheduling: Deployment of protection staff raises various questions. Obviously, officers should be well-rested, alert and attentive. There must be some method of inspecting and briefing officers before they go on duty to ensure their fitness and readiness. Careful attention must be paid to the scheduling of officers, as being tired and irritable does not coincide with effective decision making or human relations. An officer working a 12 hour shift at an event may be a problem-in-waiting.

Who to arm: Be reasonable in your choice of armed personnel — this applies to any and all weapons, not just firearms. In some cases, a tiered approach to staffing or horizontal promotion scheme may be used, ensuring that only the more senior and highly trained officers are armed.

Briefing and updating: This is a key supervisory function. It increases in scope as we develop more means of communication (social media) and raise our expectations of officers. Threats such as severe weather, active shooters and flash mobs are changing the paradigm. Listing all communications media that may be used to brief staff is a good start. Ensuring some overlap and redundancy in communication is also important. A key aspect of supervising protection staff who may be called upon to use force is to properly envision what the officers must contend with. Whether this is done via regular meetings, post inspections, accompanying officers on patrol or filling in for one’s subordinates and manning a post; it must be done.

Incident inquiries: Before expecting a control force to properly use force; a clearly delineated investigative policy must be established, and there must be a specific means of conducting an inquiry when force is in question. Following a use of force incident, it is essential that an objective inquiry be conducted. This may be derailed by hearing about the event from a third party; especially if that third party is high on the food chain.

 

Role of Protection Officers

Understanding the roles and duties of protection officers is critical to aiding them in the proper use of force. Generally officers assume several key roles; the first of which is Management Representative where the officers represent the management of the facility or organization they are protecting. This is an essential aspect of their job; in some cases they have been referred to as “the after-hours Chairman of the Board” due to the fact that they may be alone and have to make important decisions.

All security staff have an integral human/community/public and customer relations role. It can most readily be conceptualized as “Goodwill Ambassador” for the organization. A solid customer service foundation must be established in training and built on with supervision. It is an ongoing process. Liaison with external and internal stakeholders, including staff on duty and law enforcement that may respond, is necessary for the effective use of force.

Classes in crowd management are another key aspect of professional development. There may be preconceived notions that crowd management is not important if one is not protecting a stadium or handling security during a labor dispute. These misperceptions create serious problems as groups of people may form when access or egress to a facility is delayed; during a sale or promotion; or in the wake of an accident or incident. The reality is that crowd management is occasionally used during routine operations.

Let’s look at each role of a protection officer in depth:

Enforcement/Compliance Agent: Protection officers ensure that an organization or facilities rules are being followed. Knowledge and understanding of what the rules are is first and foremost, and astute managers will find ways to continually educate their officers on this. Once the rules have been mastered it is time to enforce them. Human service skills are key, and any time professional development opportunities in the areas of customer service, conflict resolution, etc. are offered they should be capitalized on.

Other aspects of enforcement are equipment and weapons. Equipment, such as flashlights and handcuffs, is important. Weapons are another form of equipment that imposes an even greater obligation on management. There must be extensive introductory training (not just “certification”) coupled with periodic refresher classes. Training and practice must expand beyond use of the weapon itself. Retention — putting it away after engagement and working with backup officers — must all be addressed within a training program.

Intelligence Agent: Security officers play a key role in obtaining information relating to loss problems, such as criminal activity, rule violations, safety issues, etc. The WAECUP Model (loss comes from Waste, Accident, Error, Crime and Unethical/Unprofessional Practices) is useful in the Intelligence Agent role. Protection officers acquire most information from people. If the Physical Plant personnel tell patrolling officers about unusual situations; this is important. It is also important if local police pass along info regarding activity in the area.

Legal Consultant: Protection officers make continuous legal judgments. These involve employment law as well as civil liability concerns and criminal law. Uses of force are essentially a legal issue incorporated with human relations and tactical concerns. Corrective actions such as counseling someone or evicting them from the property may not require force, but they still must be done in a systematic, professional manner.

Duties of Protection Officers

Direction: Direction can be purely communicative or can incorporate hands-on techniques. Professional communication consists of proficiency in listening/assessing, providing feedback and giving direction. If it is hands-on, it should be conceived of as the blending of communication with physical control. Direction generally begins with officer presence — when the officer arrives on the scene and begins to assess and communicate. Bear in mind that appearance (deportment) is crucial — first impressions matter!

Proximity is pivotal — officers should always respect someone’s personal space. This is especially true when approaching someone in crisis. Often these individuals require more space.

“Soft verbals” which persuade such as “Would you please sit down?” can be employed. These can be repeated as necessary. “Hard verbals” which command such as “Down!, Down, Down! Down” can be used to exert more control.

As the last resort, direction may involve the laying on of hands…the actual use of force. This can be “soft” empty hand control to guide someone or “hard” empty hand control which consists of control holds. Direction may also involve the use of handcuffs or some other type of weapon.

Debriefing: There is a period of enervation after a crisis where the actor feels fatigue and often remorse. People who have acted out often realize the inappropriateness of their behavior. They may apologize or attempt to explain/justify their actions. Everyone deserves respect. Everyone should be given the opportunity to save face as much as possible in the given circumstances. There are both humanistic and practical reasons for doing so: “If they go away angry, they may come back angrier.”

Protection staff must be good listeners. Allow people to apologize for their actions in whatever form. Complement as appropriate such as “you put up quite a struggle – I had to earn my pay today.” And document any admissions by the subject as well as instructions by management or security staff.

Documentation: Following any application of force, the incident must be completely documented. Reports must contain specific detail on subject actions. Statements made by subjects getting exact quotes, if possible, of threats or profanity must be recorded. So too must the statements and actions of officers and managers.

Video can play a key role here and documentation of loss events — or potential loss events — is a prime consideration. A video system can aid in recording loss events and conditions. Uses of force are but another variety of loss event which should be considered during system design and installation. Remember: resolution matters.

There are five primary justifications for using force. These justifications consist of the officer’s reasonable belief:

1. That harm would come to the officer or to someone else if force was not used.

2. That the actions taken were necessary.

3. That the actions taken were reasonable.

4. That the actions taken conformed to employer policy and training.

5. That the officer was in preclusion caused by the aggressor. This means that the officer could not escape or take other defensive actions.

If the officer cannot answer all of these questions in the affirmative, that officer may have serious trouble justifying his or her use of force. A properly written report walks the reader through the scenario. It conveys the reasonable beliefs and actions of the writer so that a dispassionate observer may understand what occurred.

 

Chris Hertig, CPP, CPOI is an author and teacher with an extensive background in security force training and development. He can be reached at chrisahertig@yahoo.com.

 

Charles “Chuck” Thibodeau, M.Ed., CPP, CSSM, CPOI, CFAI, CPAT, CPDT is a consultant, college instructor, private trainer, and expert witness in civil and use-of-force cases. He can be contacted at ctthibodeau@ctthibodeau.net.

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