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

An outline for managers and officers in daily operations and using force


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.