Why Are You Fighting? (How Not to Get in Trouble)

Photo credit: Aislinn Ritchie
If you look like this during a physical altercation, you might consider another line of work. (Photo credit: Aislinn Ritchie via Flickr)

One of the distinct traits that separates incompetent security personnel from the professionals is their intent during a physical altercation.

Security personnel should never, under any circumstances, fight with the intention of deliberately harming a suspect.  In fact, while I’m at it, no security personnel should ever start or become embroiled in a physical altercation to:

  • Teach the suspect “a lesson”
  • Release anger
  • Prove their “worth” or mettle

In fact, the word “fight’ is used here a bit erroneously.  The suspect may be fighting you, but you should be focusing on the following, in order of importance:

  • Protecting yourself
  • Protecting those around you
  • Subduing the suspect

That’s it.  Any physical action you take with any other intention is most likely excessive, unnecessary, or downright criminal.  I have worked with many security personnel who had zero arrest training, but stuck with the job because they thought it gave them the right to hurt people they didn’t approve of with impunity.  If you ever find yourself working with someone like this, avoid them at all costs.  They will end up dragging you down with them eventually.  At best, you’ll get fired.  At worst, you may be criminally charged.

I’ve been in plenty of scuffles, enough to have learned the hard way– the longer a fight goes on, the more likely someone will get hurt.  That someone could be you.  You may not care about the suspect getting injured, but you should care what sort of options injuries will make available to him/her, because in today’s litigious society, even a legitimate arrest with no serious injuries can garner attention and result in a civil lawsuit.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

From ABC7’s Eileen Frere on 07-08-15:

In a statement, Knott’s Berry Farm officials say while a security officer was investigating [a] theft Reedburg “became verbally abusive and was asked to leave the park. [Reedburg] refused to leave and then physically assaulted several of our security staff members, which led to an arrest made by the Buena Park Police Department. We take matters of this nature very seriously.”

Reedburg insists he didn’t touch anyone and that staff members never asked him to leave the park. When Eyewitness News asked Reedburg if he had been arrested, he replied “no comment.”

In this instance , the personnel involved were smart enough to document everything, probably have video evidence of some sort and the support of an official police report detailing the ultimate arrest of the suspect, all of which will probably be enough to get any lawsuit he brings against the security team dismissed.  Here’s a raw video of the incident (via YouTube, taken from ABC7):

Note several things seen here:

  • The security team is working to control the limbs of the suspect in order to subdue him.  There are no strikes involved.
  • Although this incident can indeed be considered a fight, the security team is not using force in a non-subduing capacity.
  • Despite the fight starting over the suspect allegedly physically assaulting a security staff member, it is clear that there is no intent to deliberately injure the suspect or to extract “retribution.”
  • The security team shows great restraint in the use of force and utilizes only the sufficient amount of force needed to subdue and restrain the suspect.
  • One of the suspect’s wrists has been cuffed prematurely (prior to placing the suspect in a P.O.D.), a no-no I cover in this article.  With less personnel, the cuff may have become an improvised weapon in the hands of an already-combative subject.

As this site develops and I get more content up, there will be plenty of other articles on my opinions of use-of-force.  However, from my experience, there are only two situations in which any security agent should ever use force to take a suspect into custody:

  1. Someone has hurt or is hurting you.
  2. Someone has hurt or is hurting someone else.

During the incident, your focus should be to restrain, not injure. Situations that would not validate a use of force include:

  • Theft of property without violence
  • Damage to property
  • Verbal threats
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Any non-violent misdemeanor

Property can be replaced– let it go.  Money can be replaced– let it go.  People cannot get un-injured or un-hurt easily.  If you’re going to use force, be sure you can justify it.

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