3 Reasons Thugs Are Stupid (Don’t Stoop To Their Level)

This article probably isn’t going to go the way you expect it to.  In fact, this article isn’t aimed at bashing thugs at all– it just points out some of the things they share in common with each other.  This article is about you, your role in security work, and where you might fall short.

Our shortcomings get us in trouble.  If you’re a thug, your shortcomings get you arrested.  If you work security, your shortcomings can get you hurt in many more ways.  You will always have more to lose than a thug.  Therefore, it is in your best interest to always gain and maintain as much of an advantage over them as possible.

With that said, here’s three ways to avoid stooping to their level.


If you’re wearing anything like these on-duty, you need to stop. Seriously. Photo credit: Kevin Wu

You want to embody the mentality “tactical and practical” when you dress for duty.  So ask yourself honestly, do you?

Thugs like to wear over-sized clothing that makes it harder for them to run or fight.  They choose garish colors that make them easy to spot, and wear impractical jewelry and other accessories to complement their lifestyle.

Don’t stoop to their level.

You might think this doesn’t apply to you, but I’ve yet to meet anyone in the security profession that truly has everything squared away, myself included (although I certainly strive to improve on a regular basis).  Here’s a few of the more common items:

  • Impractical footwear:

    • If you’re wearing a duty uniform, you need to wear duty boots.  I recommend boots at least five inches high– your ankles will thank me.
    • Tip: I love 5.11 and Bates side-zip boots. Don’t get steel toes– they’re impractically heavy if you walk a lot. Opt for a composite safety toe, which is lighter and offers some protection.
  • Sloppy garments

    • One of my mentors taught me years ago: If it sticks out, bad guys will grab it.  Tuck your shirt in.  Pull your pants up.  Button and zip it all closed. Don’t give your opponent convenient grappling handles.  If something doesn’t fit in a pocket, get a pouch to hold it or forego it.
    • Tip: Make a mental checklist of your uniform items and check through them regularly. Make it part of your routine– for instance, every time you finish a round of patrols.
  • Loose duty gear

    • If it isn’t secured, it’ll go flying off when you need it most. Make sure the snaps on your pouches are secure. Replace worn-out velcro. Tighten the screws on friction-based or open-top holders. Inspect the loops on your pouches regularly for tears, fraying or signs of fatigue.
    • Tip: Get a friend to stand in front of you and suddenly yank at something on your uniform. Does it come off within three seconds?  If it does, reinforce it or remove it.  Pens are a doozy– if you have pens sticking out of the top of your uniform pocket, you’re giving a close-quarters opponent a convenient stabbing implement.

Here’s a two-step test to see if you’re tactical and practical with your set up/dress:

Step 1: In your full set up right now, would you be willing to run through ankle-deep mud and hop over a fence? If the answer is yes, move on.  Otherwise, replace/remove whatever it is you’re afraid to get damaged.

Step 2: If you were to do a back-roll and then a forward somersault, would anything fall off you or get damaged? If the answer is yes, remove or find a better way to secure those items.

Bonus: If you can’t do jumping jacks without gear loosening or flying off, you’re not doing it right.

Much of this is common sense– there are too many moving parts to cover in just one article.  But thugs often have very little common sense.  Take the easy advantage, unless you enjoy having damaged items and getting your personal gear ruined when you have to deal with an unexpected situation.


This is one of the most important tools you’ll rely on.  Photo credit: Marshall Vandruff

Thugs pride themselves on being stupid.  They could be anything else if they wanted to be, but instead, they choose to be stupid because it’s easier.  In fact, some actually take mind-altering substances that cause them to remain permanently stupid, as if being resistant to education and common sense weren’t enough to earn a blissful state of ignorance.

Don’t stoop to their level.

Performing your duties safely is all about establishing an advantage. This usually is a multitude of smaller advantages coming together to overwhelm a subject. For every bit of information you have, that is one piece of information your subject will have to match to stay ahead of you. Your drive for information determines your intelligence.

There is a marked difference between intelligence and education.

You can force yourself to sit through eight years of college and never actually learn anything.  True intelligence requires that you pursue new information on a regular basis and successfully retain it.

Knowledge will keep you safe.  So keep yourself up to date on as many diverse topics as you can– there is no such thing as useless information.  The more you know about random things others may be interested in, the better you will be able to do your job.  For instance:

  • You can control conversations easier and steer them towards neutral ground.

    • Example: You’re talking to a suicidal subject, trying to keep him calm as authorities respond.  He mentions he likes a certain hobby.  The more you know about X hobby, the more likely you will be able to keep him calm until help arrives.
    • Tip: Consider joining a local debate group or Toastmasters organization. Improve your communication skills so you can learn to relate to people better.
  • You can operate more effectively.

    • Example: You learn bits and pieces of a foreign language. While on duty, you overhear two subjects speaking in that language, discussing a fight about to take place at your site. You can now take the proper measures to mitigate the event before it happens.
    • Tip: Duolingo is a great, free way to learn a new language on-the-go.
  • Your investigative and response skills drastically improve.

    • Example: You work at a site in a different city from where you live and you’re not very familiar with the place. You learn as much as you can about local events and gathering times. During an interview of a possible theft suspect, he states that he couldn’t have been responsible because he was at a nearby church for mass at the time. You ask if he has substance abuse problems and he says no. You happen to know the church he’s referring to has no service that evening and hosts AA meetings instead. You now know the subject is lying to you.
    • Tip: If your site has any type of brochures, snap them up. You get great information from them. Free newspapers and periodicals distributed in the area? Grab them– and don’t just read the funnies section.

Personally, I find that the more I learn, the more personally satisfied I am with myself.  If you don’t ever use any of the information you learn, know that it was still time well-spent.  After all, you’re not a mystic– you can’t predict the future, so anything you learn today could be useful tomorrow.

Physical Fitness

Photo credit: Chuck Lawrence

Thugs are extremely stupid when it comes to physical fitness.  They want to live a lifestyle in which they take what they want by force or deception and rely on physical evasion to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  Yet much of their lifestyle is extremely counterproductive to this goal.

I love the mainstream rap music industry because they encourage a lifestyle that makes criminals easier to catch.

They purposefully weaken their bodies with alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.  They further incapacitate their already-limited critical thinking skills through sleep deprivation and mindless media content.  They rarely work out and fill their diets with junk food.

Don’t stoop to their level.

If you’re like me and your schedule is packed, it can be difficult to establish a regiment that keeps you fit.  Instead, I personally rely on small steps that ultimately culminate in a better fitness condition.  Here’s a few of those steps:

  • Quit smoking:

    • I was a smoker for five years before I’d had enough of being constantly winded, the nicotine “sickness” you get when you smoke too much, the cravings, the high blood pressure.  I know how hard it is, but just remember that for every cigarette you don’t smoke, some thug will smoke it for you and give you a bigger advantage if you have to chase or tussle with him.
    • Tip: Quitting is tough– I know, I’ve been through it. But you’ll never succeed if you never try.  And you should try it all– gum, mints, patches, whatever you can to kick the habit.  It’ll be well worth it and could save your life (and others) in more ways than one.
  • Reduce your caloric intake:

    • Food is fuel. Food has calories. Your body stores calories and if you use them, great. Otherwise, the extra unspent calories eventually turn into fat.  Fat is hard to get rid of for most people.  If you have a great metabolism and you regularly eat your own body weight in food and never gain a pound, good for you– you’re creating a bad habit that will eventually make you pay when you’re older and your metabolism slows down.  You’ll end up being “that guy” that everyone looks at in a high school year book and goes “damn, he used to be so fit.”  Prevention is key.
    • Tip: Don’t eat out if you can help it– it’s bad for your wallet and your body.  If you already pack a lunch, you’re ahead of the curve, but consider exactly what you’re packing.  I prefer packing less than I think I’ll actually eat, and what I pack is usually healthy, and I’m no health nut. Yogurt, fruit, nuts, nutrition shakes are staples for me, and I didn’t always enjoy it.  But like all things, you’ll eventually learn to.
  • Find opportunities to burn calories:

    • You have to eat, because a hungry officer is an ineffective one.  But how do you get rid of the calories you take in?  The nature of security work often leaves us without time to actually hit the gym.  If you can fit in a schedule, that’s great, but if not, what do you do to avoid getting flabby?
    • Tip: Is your regular patrol route a quarter mile long? Double it, or do them twice as often. Take stairs whenever possible. Personally, I’m a big fan of Izumi Tabata‘s work– if you have even five or ten minutes to spare, and some simple home equipment, you can always squeeze in a work out.  Search for workouts based on Tabata’s research and pick one you like– I started with this one three years ago. Whatever you pick, make sure you stick to it.


I hope you’ve found this piece helpful to you in your goals for self-improvement.  There’s a lot we can learn about ourselves through security work– our commitment to physical fitness, societal impact, the pursuit of knowledge, all of these things are instrumental not only to the effective security personnel, they are also critical to being a productive human being in general.

There are countless more things I haven’t covered here that makes thugs stupid, but I hope this opens your eyes to your own shortcomings.  I hope you view this as a challenge, no matter what point of life you’re at.  Whether you’re 17 or 70 years old, you can always do better.  Life isn’t fair, so we build and gain advantages to help tip the scales in our favor.  What are you going to accomplish for yourself?

Until next time, stay safe out there.


Security Breakdown: Titles and Control

In the course of your duties, you will often find yourself in a volatile situation where words need to be chosen carefully.  One of these instances happens to involve your title and role as a security guard or private patrol officer.

The Incident

The incident above took place on November 15, 2013 at a highschool hockey game in Westchester, PA.  During research for this article, I wasn’t able to determine if the subject of this video (identified as Aaron McLaughlin) faced any criminal charges for his actions, nor was I able to identify the event security worker and how bad his injuries, if any, were.  Some of the less reliable sources I reviewed indicated that the worker may have been an off-duty deputy sheriff working security as a secondary job.

If you’ve been working in the security industry for any decent length of time, you’ll quickly find that the majority of the public has a general lack of respect for your role.  You’ll often be mocked, degraded or treated with condescension.  If this bothers you, then my advice is to find another line of work to go into– before you get fired, arrested, injured, sued or some combination thereof.

With this in mind, the main point I’d like to make in this article is a simple one:

Don’t use your title or role to establish authority.

It often has no desirable effect and will cause anything from feelings of resentment, increased resistance, and at worst, violent reactions.

The Breakdown

In this particular incident, it appears Mr. McLaughlin had been asked to leave for an undetermined reason.  As the security worker is a representative or authorized person of the property (the ice rink where this took place), he is fully within his legal bounds to do so.  By willfully defying this order, Mr. McLaughlin violated Philadelphia penal code §3503(b) that defines a Defiant Trespasser, a 1st degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 5 years in prison, although Mr. McLaughlin was under 18 during the time of incident (relevant sections highlighted in red):

§ 3503.  Criminal trespass.
        (a)  Buildings and occupied structures.--
            (1)  A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is
        not licensed or privileged to do so, he:
                (i)  enters, gains entry by subterfuge or
            surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied
            structure or separately secured or occupied portion
            thereof; or
                (ii)  breaks into any building or occupied structure
            or separately secured or occupied portion thereof.
            (2)  An offense under paragraph (1)(i) is a felony of the
        third degree, and an offense under paragraph (1)(ii) is a
        felony of the second degree.
            (3)  As used in this subsection:
                "Breaks into."  To gain entry by force, breaking,
            intimidation, unauthorized opening of locks, or through
            an opening not designed for human access.
        (b)  Defiant trespasser.--
            (1)  A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is
        not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in
        any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:
                (i)  actual communication to the actor;
                (ii)  posting in a manner prescribed by law or
            reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders;
                (iii)  fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed
            to exclude intruders;
                (iv)  notices posted in a manner prescribed by law or
            reasonably likely to come to the person's attention at
            each entrance of school grounds that visitors are
            prohibited without authorization from a designated
            school, center or program official; or
                (v)  an actual communication to the actor to leave
            school grounds as communicated by a school, center or
            program official, employee or agent or a law enforcement
            (2)  Except as provided in paragraph (1)(v), an offense
        under this subsection constitutes a misdemeanor of the third
        degree if the offender defies an order to leave personally
        communicated to him by the owner of the premises or other
        authorized person. An offense under paragraph (1)(v)
        constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree. Otherwise it
        is a summary offense.

Note that in the video, it takes actual physical contact from a second security worker to Mr. McLaughlin’s right arm to actually cause him to begin leaving.  At that point, he turns and asks the first security worker “Who are you? Who are you?”

From my perspective, my thought would’ve been “Does it matter who I am? Who cares? He’s doing what I’m telling him.”  In this case however, the security worker responds with “I’m security, move.”

“I’m security, move.”

During any typical incident, there will be an initial struggle for control between the subject and you. Your job is to react to resistance, not encourage it, and there are many ways a subject might test your control, starting with words and escalating from there.

The faster you can establish and maintain dominance through language and presence, the safer and better things will turn out.

In this case, that’s what Mr. McLaughlin likely wanted– a response that he could use to regain some semblance of control with.  From his perspective, it makes sense– he’s outnumbered 2 to 1, he no longer can keep doing whatever he wants, and he has to leave when he doesn’t want to.  It’s pretty obvious the people in front of him are some sort of security personnel so by testing to see if he can get a response he wants, he feels like he regains control through cause and effect on a small scale.

The security worker’s response emboldened Mr. McLaughlin, at which point he mocks him and then turns around and something new happens: he shoves the security worker, stops leaving– and holds onto the security worker (assault). That’s another moment of escalation.

Up until that point, Mr. McLaughlin’s actions had pushed the envelope– throwing hands up, pushing the security workers– all signs of potential aggressive resistance, so it’s important to maintain somewhat of a safe distance from a subject when those signs are observed.  Since this isn’t possible, the security workers simply maintained neutral contact with Mr. McLaughlin’s arms as much as possible– using minimal force to overcome resistance.

The security worker attempts to redirect Mr. McLaughlin’s arm, which is tough in such tight quarters, fails, and attempts a full-on take down right afterward. The end result is not pretty.

There were several mistakes the security worker made prior to the fight.  Here they are (along with better alternatives):

  • Answering a bait question with a predictable response: Always answer questions as neutrally as possible. You don’t want your answers to embolden a subject. If at all, you don’t even have to answer. But if I had to answer those questions, I might say any of the following:
    • “I’m just a guy at work.”
    • “An employee.”
    • “I’m Spencer.”
  • Giving unnecessarily authoritative commands: In this case, there was no need to follow up with “move,” like the security worker did after identifying himself.
    • The subject already knows he has to leave, he’s not going to be able to go back to where he was standing, what other choice does he have than to leave?
    • It’s possible that structuring a command into a request may have worked better, such as “Please continue down the steps.”
  • Physical contact with zero advantage: The security worker was on a narrow step, in tight quarters, and his backup was stuck in the crowd behind him. If a take down was needed (it may very will have been, I don’t know if a come-along hold would’ve worked too well since the subject in this case was too low to gain leverage), some precautionary measures I would’ve taken are:
    • Wait for my backup to get closer/take a position of advantage.
    • Direct my backup to the rear of the subject.
    • Ask nearby persons to clear away as much as possible.


As I continue to develop this site, I hope to make these breakdowns a regular on-going series.  I hope you found this article helpful, and if you did, please take a moment to leave your thoughts below, or shoot me an email.  Until next time, stay safe!

Part I – De-Escalation: What Happens BEFORE the Use of Force

“Must have excellent communication skills.”

No matter what part of the country you’re in, if you’ve ever applied for any sort of job, you’ve seen some variation of this line.

The security fields are no exception, where communication is crucial in a work environment filled with constant contact with people, some of whom may be extremely dangerous.

The Continuum of Force Pyramid

If you’ve been in the security industry for any amount of time, hopefully you are familiar with the use of force continuum, which is universally used to determine what types of force are appropriate at what times.

It takes many forms (here’s the text version for law enforcement presented by the National Institute of Justice), but it’s usually some sort of pyramid that looks something like this:

Continuum of Force Pyramid
One common iteration of the Continuum of Force Pyramid (click to enlarge)

The Continuum of Force Pyramid applies to security personnel primarily in regards to the protection of life, not property.  As I have stated in previous articles, property and funds can be replaced easily.  Life and people cannot.  To avoid incurring liability for yourself or your agency, I always highly recommend disengaging from a volatile situation that does not threaten the safety of other persons and contacting the police for assistance (after all, that’s what they’re there for).

The typical pyramid, starting from the bottom…

  • Presence/Verbal Communication:
    • By being present, the Officer acts as a deterrent against potential crimes.  When signs that an incident may be imminent are apparent, the Officer uses verbal tactics to de-escalate the situation and gain compliance.  No physical force is involved.
  • Empty Hand Control: 
    • Upon encountering non-lethal resistance, the Officer employs the sufficient amount of force to gain compliance against the subject(s).  No weapons or tools are involved (although restraints may be necessary to retain compliance).  Once in control, the Officer disengages and returns to the previous step.
  • Impact Weapon or Chemical Agents:
    • Upon encountering force that cannot be overcome with empty hand techniques, the Officer employs the use of a baton or similar instrument, or a chemical agent to gain the needed leverage to transition back to empty hand control as described above.
  • Deadly Force: 
    • Upon encountering any type of resistance that may cause grievous bodily injury or death to their person or persons around them, the Officer may employ any force necessary, up to and including the killing of the resistant subject(s) to gain control.

How to Gain Compliance

It is generally accepted your role as a security officer is to effect compliance with no force, or the minimum amount of force needed to accomplish the task at hand.  Obviously, compliant folks (i.e. the majority of people you will run into on a daily basis) are no issue.

The use-of-force pyramid was developed as a guideline on dealing with non-compliant subjects after verbal de-escalation fails.  That’s all well and good, but how do you use your words properly to effect compliance in a non-compliant subject?

In the many years I’ve spent in the security industry, every agency, director, supervisor, captain, sergeant has said the same thing: USE YOUR WORDS. DE-ESCALATE.

The best way to stop non-compliance is to avoid it in the first place.

This will be the first of a few articles I have planned to help you with that.  By no means am I an end-all expert on the subject of de-escalation, however I have had my fair share of incidents and I feel that any help I can offer my fellow brothers and sisters in this field will be worth the effort.

In a future article (currently in progress!), I will share several verbal de-escalation techniques that have been extremely effective for me.  I hope you’ll find them useful.

Until then, stay safe, my friends.

The Protective Diamond: Prioritizing Your Responsibilities

Photo credit: Michael Dornbierer
During critical situations, you must be able to prioritize your efforts for maximum efficacy. Photo credit: Michael Dornbierer
A few years back, I had a conversation with one of the veteran police officers that patrolled near my site, whom I highly respected (and still do till this day).

We were discussing different situations concerning officer safety and he posed the following scenario, one he’d once been presented with in his earlier years (much of it’s paraphrased, but gets the point across):

“Due to a mandatory training event, every officer has been pulled off the streets, leaving just you and one other unit to patrol your sector for the night.

As your shift is about to end, you get two calls simultaneously from dispatch:

  • A priority multi-vehicle accident with reported injuries.

  • A priority call advising you that while on an assignment, the other officer in your sector has stopped responding to his radio.

You are advised of the accident location and the other officer’s last-known position. The calls are located on opposite ends of your sector.  Assume that there is no supervisor available to consult with.

Time is ticking.  Which call do you respond to first?”

I pondered this scenario for a moment, then said I’d take the accident. The cop gave me a sly grin and asked why.

I explained that my duty was to public safety, and that with injured civilians, the accident would take precedence.

The cop eyed me kindly as he promptly informed me I was wrong.  I’ll save his explanation for the end of this article, but give it some thought yourself to see if you can come up with the answer yourself.

As a police officer (or security officer in my case), your primary function of course should be to protect life before everything else.  However, it’s easy to forget that this also directly applies to yourself and your team members as well.

Below I’ve created a visual presentation of what I refer to as the Protective Diamond.  Its purpose is to help you understand who you’re responsible for keeping safe, and the priority they should take when you perform your duties.

The order you do it in does not change, and some of you will find this uncomfortable to digest.  It’s always in this sequence:


  • You: No matter how much training you have or how great your tools, if you are incapacitated you are useless to everyone.  If you are wearing a uniform, you might now become a target for additional harm.  If you work armed, your weapons now become a safety hazard, as those with bad intentions now have an opportunity to arm themselves with your gear.  By safeguarding yourself first, you are not being selfish.  You are maximizing your potential to safeguard others now and well into the future.

  • Your team: There is indeed strength in numbers, but even the mightiest of forces can be weakened, then defeated, if slowly whittled away a little at a time.  Everything in the previous bullet point applies here in terms of risk if a member of your team is incapacitated.  Additionally, failing to adequately extract a team member from danger can prove damaging for morale afterward, and even encourage would-be criminals to take advantage of a perceived opportunity to wreak havoc.

  • The public: This refers first and foremost to the client you’re serving, of course.  Police officers have a duty to protect everyone, however your job is much more concentrated– you’re only responsible for the people either on your property or directly charged with protecting.In the course of your duties, you’ll often have limitations on what permitted actions can be taken if you observe a danger unrelated to your client’s interests.  Be sure to pay attention to these, as it will reduce your liability in the long run.  Remember, the top priority here is you, and you’re useless if you’re incapacitated.  Being sued into bankruptcy and losing your job can certainly be considered incapacitating in a non-physical way.  Remember– safeguard yourself first.
    • NOTE: If you work as a body guard, close protection agent or in a similar executive protection role, your client comes before you and your team.  There’s no room for negotiating on this, so if you’re unwilling to put someone else’s life before your own for a paycheck, this field of work isn’t for you.  There’s a reason why EP personnel are the among the highest-paid security workers in the industry.

  • The suspect(s): Suspects aren’t suspects without reason or cause (and if they are, you need to reevaluate your judgement and decision-making skills).  They have, by definition, exhibited behavior that indicates potential criminal activity of some sort, and therefore may pose a risk to the safety of those around them.
    However, this doesn’t mean that they themselves don’t have rights.  After all, this is good ol’ America, where our rights are unalienable.  If you are an impartial, professional security worker, you will recognize that it is not up to you to play judge or jury, and you shouldn’t be biased in the execution of your duties.

    With that said, because of the aforementioned risk for danger, your first goal (after ensuring the safety of yourself, your team and the public, in that order) is to ensure that the suspect poses no threat before extending them the same protection you afford your public/clientele.

If you use the Protective Diamond’s hierarchy to help you prioritize, you will increase your odds of safety and survival every time you become involved in an incident.  As promised, the cop’s answer to the scenario presented above:

“You choose the call to back up your fellow officer every single time because you’d want the same if he were you and you were in trouble.  Communication is extremely important in this line of work and the fact that he stopped answering his radio could mean that he’s incapacitated.

If he’s incapacitated, his weapons are available to whomever wishes to take them.  His life could be in danger.  And if you respond and he’s okay, he knows you’ve got his back.

Plus, it’s not just us on the streets you know.  Vehicle accidents with injuries happen, and we’ve got paramedics, fire and rescue for that.  Always protect yourself and your team first.”

Stay safe out there.

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.

Your Handcuffs Will Get You in Trouble

Image courtesy of freeimages.com
When was the last time you inspected your cuffs?

For about as long as I’ve been in the security industry, the vast majority of the people I’ve worked with have had zero handcuff training, despite being authorized by their agency to carry them.  This is a worrying trend, and I’m writing this with the primary intention of spurring you to pursue the necessary training if you don’t have it.  It’s not just your responsibility to the public, it’s also for yourself as well– you’d be surprised how many ways these pesky things can get you in trouble.

Don’t get me wrong though– I love my handcuffs.  My cuffs are probably the most-used item on my duty belt, right up there with my keys.  There is definitely a time and place to use them; however, it is important you not only know when and where to use them, but how.

The next few points are a few thoughts and gripes that I’ve collected over the years I’ve spent in this field. If you’re a working professional you probably can relate to most, if not all, of them.

In no particular order…


Do you know what double-locking is? If you do, you’re way ahead of the game. In the past six years, I have worked with dozens of personnel and shockingly enough, only a handful were familiar with this function and its importance.

The double lock is a feature found on every standard pair of professional handcuffs. If the pair you’re looking at doesn’t have one, don’t purchase them no matter how cheap or cool they may be.

A double lock works as a safety feature for handcuffs.  It also reduces your liability and helps keep the cuffed suspect safe. It appears in many forms, but is usually some sort of pin, switch or latch accessible only with the reverse (pin) side of  a standard handcuff key.

Once activated, a double-locked set of cuffs will not tighten any more.  This means once you have properly handcuffed your subject, they can wriggle around and fidget their wrists all they want and the chances that they will over-tighten the cuffs on themselves are drastically reduced.

Non-Professional or Non-Standard Cuffs:

You’d be surprised at the number of security personnel I’ve come across using cheap (and oftentimes dangerous) handcuffs.

With handcuffs, you will get what you pay for. With that in mind, do not cheap out for a pair from eBay, a souvenir stand or a kinky sex shop. Believe it or not, I have worked with actual personnel that actually purchased their cuffs from all three of those places.

These cuffs are usually manufactured overseas with cheap alloys, often with no double lock function and may not even accept a universal handcuff key. There is nothing more embarrassing than turning a suspect over to a police officer to switch your cuffs out for their own, only for them to find that their keys don’t fit your cuffs.  It gets even more embarrassing when fire and rescue has to be called out to cut the cuffs off if you lose the non-standard keys they came with.

The problems are compounded when you take into account that some of these cheap cuffs are prone to corrosion, rust, and may even have sharp/rough edges that cut into your hands and the wrists of the suspect.  Even if you don’t get hurt using them, you still leave yourself vulnerable to a negligence lawsuit if your suspect does.

A good pair of cuffs will cost you anywhere from $30-50 and can withstand a fair amount of abuse. The best restraint manufacturers in my opinion (presented in no particular order) are:

  • Peerless
  • ASP
  • Smith and Wesson

I’ve used cuffs manufactured by all three of these companies and can attest to their quality.  Well-maintained handcuffs will give you years of service and are worth the investment to any true security professional.

Deployment Prior to Suspect P.O.D.:

A big no-no I’ve observed quite often is the security guard that attempts to apply handcuffs too soon.

There is an art to recognizing when it is appropriate to restrain a suspect, especially if they are resistant. The general rule of thumb is to always first achieve a Position Of Disadvantage, or P.O.D.  I will write more about P.O.D. in a future article.

Achieving a P.O.D. can be as simple as pulling a somewhat compliant suspect off-balance prior to applying cuffs. Or it can be as complex as untangling your limbs from the suspect’s during a takedown before transitioning to your cuffs.

Always remember two things:

  • Handcuffs require one hand to grip properly, two hands to properly apply (in most instances).
  • If a suspect is able to break free during the arrest and has a single cuff secured around his/her wrist, the free cuff becomes an improvised impact/slashing weapon.

With these points in mind, it will be obvious why the P.O.D. is so important prior to the deployment and application of restraints.

Here is the bottom line to handcuffing:

An amateur guard will fight a suspect to get the cuffs on.

A professional, however, will fight to subdue a suspect until there is little-to-zero resistance.  Then the cuffs go on.


Take an empty plastic water bottle (cap off) and squeeze it in your hand. Feel how easily it collapses beneath the weight of your fingers? That is ideally how smooth you want your cuffs to function when you work the swing-through.

If you have a good set of handcuffs, regardless of whether they were issued to you or self-purchased, it is your responsibility to keep them maintained.

Inspect them regularly for signs of wear or damage, check for dirt or debris that may prevent the cuffs from functioning properly. Test the double lock and swing-through function (compare it to the water bottle experiment) for smoothness. And of course, oil all the moving parts so they stay moving.


Once again, this article isn’t meant to be a replacement for appropriate professional training. Instead, I hope if you’ve made it this far and you’ve been surprised by what you’ve learned that you seek out the training for your own benefit. The class will not be a waste of time or money and will save you a lot of headache in the long run.

I’d like to end this entry with a few pointers for the security personnel that are seeking to improve themselves:

  • If your agency requires you to carry and/or issues you handcuffs, always insist on obtaining the relevant training.  If the agency does not provide you or your teammates with this training, be hesitant about keeping your current employment.
  • As soon as possible after applying cuffs on a suspect, always check for proper fit, then double-lock. Have a witness present if possible so there is no question that the proper steps were taken to ensure their safety.
  • Err on the side of caution– when possible, call the police to have a handcuffed suspect released.  If you can help it, avoid un-cuffing and releasing a suspect without police assistance.  It could expose you to false imprisonment or excessive force allegations, depending on your local laws.
  • Never reach for or deploy your handcuffs until you have the suspect in a P.O.D., regardless of their compliance level.  Premature deployment can escalate a situation into an unnecessary physical altercation and may be considered excessive or aggressive behavior (on your part) in some cases.
  • Never threaten a suspect with handcuffs in any way.  If you do it verbally, you’ve just tipped your hand and they are one step ahead of you and may attempt to flee or resist.  If you do it physically with your cuffs in hand (and we all know of at least one meat-head that loves to pull the cuffs out in a macho manner), you’ve once again telegraphed your intent.  If they fight, you’ll quickly find out that your cuffs don’t make a very practical self-defense tool and severely limit your ability to manipulate their limbs.  If they run, you’ll be chasing with one hand tied up.
  • Always keep at least one handcuff key concealed on your person, accessible from your rear, in case of emergencies.  Practice retrieving it without looking.

Finally, I know that with all the vast options, makes and models of handcuffs out there, it can be hard to decide what gear you need to purchase (if your agency allows or requires you to do so).

In a future entry, I will be discussing my own set up and others that may work for you.

Until then, stay safe out there.