How does the use of force apply to those in the private security industry? Many working here in the private sector often are not taught the limits of force that they can use when operating as a private agent versus a public servant. There have been guidelines set in the force continuum. The force continuum has six levels, each progressing with the amount of force one can use when on the job.
The first level of the force continuum is officer presence. The mere presence or visibility of an officer in uniform or vehicle sometimes is enough to deter would be criminals. In the first level of the force continuum gestures should be none threatening. We often see this first level of force at malls. Here you often see security cars in the parking lot and security roaming the streets of the mall giving a presence of law.
Our second level of force continuum begins with Voice. One would employ the use of voice when first approaching a subject. In a deep and commanding tone you would give short directives such as, “STOP RIGHT THERE. TURN AROUND. PLACE YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK.” We most often see voice being employed by police, but in the private sector we can still use this level of force. Often many in the private sector are not trained in the use of voice.
Level three involves control holds and restraints. Control holds are used when one must physically restrain a suspect. Minimal force is to be used using your bare hands to guide, restrain and hold. One should not involve themselves in actual physical confrontation with punch and kicks. At this point one may also use a baton or PR-24, you must remember however that at this level the baton can only be used a self-defense mechanism in blocking someone’s attack on you. You would likely want to restrain a suspect if they start to become aggressive or if there is a risk of flight. You will want to resist placing the suspect on the ground to handcuff them there is risk of suffocation. Avoid hog tying a suspect.
Level four, chemical agents. Chemical agents are pepper sprays and tear gases. At this point, your lower level of force should have been attempted and should only be used to subdue a violent suspect. Pepper sprays can briefly stop a suspect but may not fully subdue them. After being sprayed one may become aggravated and increasingly violent so once you have sprayed them you will want to immediately use restraints to control the suspect. In many states you may have to take a course in how use the pepper spray and become licensed to carry it. You cannot use them to simply protect property or enforce business rules this is a defensive weapon only.
Level five, temporary incapacitation. At this level in the force continuum, you have used the prior methods and have exhausted them as well as are dealing with a violent suspect and more force is necessary to subdue the suspect until police arrive. You may at this point use non-deadly force. This includes blows to the body and compression holds. One must be careful when using this level of force, as you do not want to deliver a deadly blow you will want to hit in soft tissue areas versus head or neck blows. Remember it is best to place a blow to the inner thigh versus a joint where you could break something.
The final level is level six or rather the use of deadly force. Deadly force can only be used when your life is endangered or fear of extreme bodily harm is imminent. Deadly force includes uses hands, impact tools or a firearm. One must be sure that there is no other alternative before using deadly force.
Liability is the next question. When the wrong level of force is applied or used inappropriately who become responsible for this? Is it the employer or the employee? The employee is always 100% responsible for their actions but often an employer can be held responsible under certain circumstances.
As an employer you are responsible to conduct a full criminal history background check, in a recent case a jury awarded a woman wrongfully detained by a security guard 2.1 million dollars. This security guard attempted to bully and intimidate her while making sexually explicit comments and informing her that he would release her if she gave him sexual favors. The security company failed to conduct a thorough criminal background check. Had they conducted a background check they would have known that he was not a licenses security agent and that he had assaulted a 13-year-old girl.
Not only do you want to conduct a background check on your employees but you will also want to provide training and continual monitoring. If you do have an agent properly trained they could easily misuse the force continuum and without continual monitoring they may become power hungry and believe that can conduct themselves in any manner they please because of their position of trust.
When operating as someone’s personal protection agent you have even more responsibility to not engage a suspect but rather evacuate the client. Let us say you are hired to protect senior executives wife, and while she is put and about an angry man starts shout at her about her husband and a business deal gone wrong what would you do? Would you engage this individual? No if you were to engage him with any physical force you would likely find yourself without a job, in a lawsuit and your former employer would likely be sued as well. The reason you do want to engage this person is you really do not know their intent and at this point with no weapon drawn you cannot justify using any force beyond voice.
One must remember how they can use force when operating as a personal protection agent or private security officer, or face the consequences.