Authors note: I am a nightclub security expert witness. I've never worked in a bar. What qualifies me as an expert is my decades-long experience in security management. Security personnel are known under many different titles such as, most commonly, bouncers but they are also called ushers, greeters, door men, crowd control specialists, etc. The truth, however, is that there are basic tenants to any security program, regardless of business environment, and bars and nightclubs are no different with the exception of alcohol. Bouncer = Security.
Alcohol-fueled guests present a variety of issues that can ultimately lead to serious injury or death. Litigation or law suits follow these incidents and the club is generally poorly prepared to defend themselves in court.
I am providing some insight into the common areas that I explore as a nightclub security expert when working for the plaintiff's attorney. This should not be considered legal advice. Always consult with your attorney on security matters. Hopefully this will assist in preparing a workable security plan.
From an expert witness's point of view, the issues cited within law suits against clubs are fairly universal thus the following is an overview of the hiring, training and supervision of security personnel in the night club business. Use this information as a guide when considering the security management aspects of your club. One size does not fit all and therefore managers must consider facets of their business that may be unique. The context of this article is based upon common areas of litigation that results from an incident at a club or on their parking lots. There is no protection from a person suing a club however it would be comfort to your attorney in knowing that the critical areas usually reviewed by a plaintiff's expert witness have previously been explored.
A nightclub bouncer, regardless of the job title, is simply a security guard in a specific environment. A security guard, however, has met minimum state-required training and a criminal background check to be certified to conduct those duties. Unfortunately, some states do not require training or background checks. Regardless, the authority vested in the individual security person is no different than that of any ordinary person. Said another way: Bouncers and security guards have limited authority for an actual arrest and their ability to use force in making that "arrest" or "detention" is extremely narrow.
A bouncer is known by many titles in the nightclub and bar industry but the job title is unimportant. Their job function, however, is. Their primary functions may include age verification, crowd control, dress code enforcement, intervener in altercations, first aid, and, in some cases, ejecting certain patrons from the establishment for causing disturbances or fights. The manner by which the security staff accomplish their job duties is critical.
The security function in any organization requires reasonable hiring practices, adequate training and, above all, adequate supervision. The following are offered as guidelines for the establishment's owner/manager and/or management of club security. These are offered only as guidelines which can be considered when developing a security plan. There are no industry standards therefore the club, itself, creates their own standards. This is the primary reason for having a documented security plan.
Appropriate skills for security personnel:
a. Good listener
b. Focus on customer service
c. Firm but fair approach
d. Calm under stress
e. The ability to control emotion in potentially volatile situations.
J. Patrick Murphy has over 35 years of experience in Law Enforcement, Security Management, and Corporate Loss Prevention. Mr. Murphy's background as a Fortune 50 company security director provides a strategic view of operations, security planning, and liability. His continuing education in the area of security case law and his unique approach to investigating cases make him a valuable Security Expert Witness to any litigation team. His hands on approach and advice during the discovery phase of the case can often be pivotal in determining the ultimate outcome.
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