Use of Force: Applications for Managers and Officers2016-02-21T18:33:13-05:00

Christopher A. Hertig, CPP,CPOI
Charles T. Thibodeau, M.Ed., CPP, CSSM, CPO, CPOI, CFAI, CPAT, CPDT

  Managers have an obligation to their 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. They need to focus on preparing officers to use force when necessary in a professional manner and only as a last resort.

Managers and Supervisors Duty

Regarding violent encounters, management’s first duty is to the line 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 and 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.  The officers must be attentive, positive and properly informed in order to meet the public.   A serious safety issue is officers who are tired.

Sleep deprivation can cause extensive cognitive damage where the officer uses poor judgment. Additionally,  being tired and irritable does not coincide with effective human relations.  Careful attention must be paid to the scheduling of officers

These issues are exacerbated during extended shifts and when dealing with the public. An officer working a 12 hour shift at an event may be a problem-in-waiting. The same officer scheduled for 12 hour shifts for several days facing an angry crowd at a strike or civil disturbance is a time bomb.

When scheduling security officers, be reasonable in your expectations.

Schedules are certainly a  consideration in arming a protection force. So too is the selection of personnel who may be armed. This applies to any and all weapons, not just firearms. Be reasonable in your choice of armed personnel; avoiding future charges of negligent entrustment and negligent retention. In some cases a tiered approach to staffing or horizontal promotion scheme may be utilized. This ensures that only the more senior and highly trained officers are armed.

Briefing and updating officers 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 important. So too is being realistic about what an officer can be attentive to: one cannot patrol or assess an area while engrossed with an electronic device.          

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. Managers must fully understand the challenges of their charges. And they must treat their officers with care and respect. This is good basic supervision but it really comes into play with force as the manager gets a feel for the work environment.

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. There may be a perception that the use of force was inappropriate. And there may be some degree of pressure from superiors, clients, and the general public.

Before expecting  a control force to properly use force; a clearly delineated investigative policy must be established. There must be policy, training and procedures.  Finally, there must be a specific means of conducting an inquiry when force is in question.

Be Supportive of Subordinates. Don’t rush to judgment. Be objective. Put aside the prejudice that most people have for security officers. A simple rule it to:

Supervise as you would want to be supervised.

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 upon with supervision. It is an ongoing process.

Liaison with external and internal stakeholders is necessary for the effective use of force. Internal organizations who are unsupportive such as nursing staff in a hospital can create serious problems when force must be used. These can range from not calling the security department when it is really necessary to hesitation in helping a healthcare officer restrain patients.

So too can outside organizations such as local police departments. If responding police officers do not believe the security officer was justified in using force there can arise a series of problems in prosecuting wrongdoers, potential civil litigation and damaged community/stakeholder relations.

Classes in crowd management are another key juncture of professional development. Crowds are simply groups of people.  They can form in almost any environment; unfortunately we often tend to stereotype and build silos. 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. It is utilized when VIP’s come onsite. It is definitely practiced during emergencies; being an essential component of crisis/emergency response. Whenever there is a problem a security officer  may need to quickly and efficiently move people  The inappropriate application of force in a crowd has the potential to create a crisis with hundreds of people fighting in a confined space. Blending crowd management into an officer’s competencies preserves public image and prevents tragedy.

Enforcement/Compliance Agent

Protection officers ensure that an organization or facilities rules are being followed by the various publics on site. Knowledge and understanding of what the rules are is first and foremost. Astute managers will find ways to continually educate their officers on this. They will also evaluate the staff’s knowledge via questioning during post inspection, refresher training or scenario exercises.

Once the rules have been mastered it is time to enforce them. Human service skills are key at this juncture.  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 is important - whistles may be a simple, effective means of getting people’s attention in a crisis or crowd situation. Surveillance capabilities should be continually evaluated so that the officers have an optimal view of the environment they need to safeguard.  

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. Learning never stops.  Learning is a partner of proficiency; an proficiency is paramount.

Training and practice must expand beyond use of the weapon itself.  Retention, putting it away after engagement, uses when other staff is in the conflict area, or working with backup officers must all be addressed within a training program.  Oleoresin Capsicum Aerosol Training (OCAT) teaches fighting through the effects of being sprayed. It also includes working with a partner.  This less-than-lethal, incapacitation device not only aids combat in a tactical sense; it helps to screen and socialize the security force: if users are required to be sprayed before being allowed to carry OC, it eliminates the faint of heart who should not be entrusted with the responsibilities of protection. Expending the necessary effort to complete training in any weapon helps to dissuade the less-than-serious.  And it makes a strong statement to officers on the importance of their position to management.

Intelligence Agent

Security officers play a key role in obtaining information relating to loss problems. This may be 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. Violence can spring from Errors, Crime and Unethical/Unprofessional Practices on the part of both management and security staff.

Correct, proper, professional judgements must be made. officers should know as much as possible about the people in their environment. Obviously relations with various constituencies is critical to mission success. 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 the local police pass along info regarding gang activity in the area.

Legal Consultant

Protection officers make continuous legal judgements in their daily job functioning. 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.

It may be useful to divide up a use of force into phases such as Dialog, Direction, Debriefing and Documentation.  Note this can also be used with enforcement actions that do not require force. Corrective actions such as counseling someone or evicting them from the property may not require force per se, but they still must be done in a systematic, professional manner.


Possible indicators of aggression and/or weapons that are discussed by Calibre Press, the Crisis Prevention Institute  and the Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) programs include:

Disguised weapons

Stiff, unnatural gait

Weapons in plain sight

All edged weapons

All piercing weapons

Perpetrator’s hands

Relatives, friends, others in close proximity so that the subject is “on stage”

Subject’s red face

Subject’s direct prolonged eye contact

Subject’s quick and deep breathing

Subject’s head and shoulders back

Subject’s standing as tall as possible

Subject’s hands pumping

Subject’s finger pointing – “Parental Finger”

Subject’s chest poking

Subject’s moving in and out of other people’s  personal space

Subject’s belligerence, yelling, cursing

Subject’s pounding fist on walls and tables

Subject’s verbal threats

Movement toward and away from staff members (    “boundary probing” ).

“Target Glance”  - looking at the target of their grab, strike or kick before an attack

Bulky clothing or clothing inappropriate for the temperature

Shirts pulled out over waist area

 “Security Tap” – a person carrying a weapon may have to adjust the weapon periodically as it moves about. More commonly they will touch the weapon to reassure themselves of its placement. Usually weapons are carried in the waistband area, the ankle area is also common.

Watch the hands, waist and eyes.

Also pay attention to the ankle area.


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 starts with officer presence . This occurs when the officer arrives on the scene and begins to assess and communicate. Bear in mind that appearance (deportment) is crucial. The first impression is lasting!

Proxemics are pivotal. .Always respect someone’s personal space. This is especially true when approaching someone in crisis. Often these individuals require more space. Protection officers never want to hear :

“Keep outa my face”

“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” are to exert more control.

Finally; 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.


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 mad, they may come back more mad”

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.


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.  In detail.

Video can play a key role here and documentation of loss events – or potential loss events – is a prime consideration relating to surveillance systems. 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.The situation was such that the officer had to use force.

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.


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.

Management must support officers  through every aspect of the employment relationship. 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.  Each is part of the recipe for the ethical and professional use of force.

The officers deserve nothing less.



Chris Hertig, CPP, CPOI is an author and teacher with an extensive background in security force training and development. Professor Hertig has held instructor credentials in Defensive Tactics related fields and is also a Certified Protection Officer Instructor (CPOI)  He  can be reached at


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