Is the Security Industry Shooting in the Dark? Lessons from Florida

By Javier Soto, JD, and Reginald Kornegay
Other Factors
To further understand what S/Os faced during confrontations we scrutinized DACS reports to discover any other data about S/O armed confrontations that may suggest why the security guard made the decision to fire. We found the following:
Gun Choices. While many Florida police agencies carrying “.40” caliber semi-automatic pistols, DACS policy restricts security weapons to 9mm semi-auto pistols and.38 caliber revolvers and the 12 gauge shotgun—although a waiver is available upon request. DACS incident reports suggested that over half of the firearms used in incidents were .38 caliber revolvers. While selecting a higher caliber pistol or semi-auto pistol is not critical, since the major police agencies still use 9mm, our findings suggest that the security industry has not “updated” any training or studies on handgun choice. For example, our own law enforcement experiences and visits to police departments nationwide lead us to conclude that most, if not all, police agencies have adopted the semi-auto pistol for its inherent tactical advantages: it fires more rounds, reloads faster, and is less bulky and easier to shoot than the revolvers many security guards carry.
Distance. As in law enforcement, S/O armed encounters occurred at very close distances—we estimate over 90 percent occurred under 15 feet, probably closer, from description of events. However, armored car and bank security confrontations involved longer distances on the average.
Body Armor. Most S/Os did not wear body armor. Our police experience leads us to recommend body armor, which can help during knife and physical attacks as well as during other accidents. Body armor is not addressed by DACS policy. But the protection does matter, according to the incident reports. One S/O not wearing body armor was killed when he was shot in the chest during a retail assignment, but another S/O survived being shot in the chest during a residential assignment because he was wearing body armor.
Tactics. Reports disclosed that many S/Os approached situations without thinking about cover, without backup, or calling “911”—despite having the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, they did not employ “contact and cover” strategies when more than one S/O was involved. Also, S/Os generally did not verbally warn a perpetrator before escalating to warning shots. However, there were S/Os that performed admirably, escalating situations as dictated by the attacker.
Low-light Scenarios. In low-light scenarios, S/Os sometimes assumed the attacker was armed and this led to the S/O firing their handgun. Flashlight use was not reported to help with low-light conditions. DACS mandated training does not address low-light training. Most modern police forces mandate low-light training and qualification drills.
Hit Rates.  S/Os managed a 14 percent “shots fired versus hits rate” from 2001 – 2008, but the rate is severely skewed. Annually, the rate was dismal: In 2008, the hit rate was 2.27 percent. In 2007, the hit rate was near zero percent. Two years earlier, however, two officers did remarkably well - one going 6 for 6, bringing the hit rate to above 28 percent. If not for these S/Os, the hit rate would be under 1 percent for that year and would have lowered the 8-year-study hit rate.
In comparison, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) achieved a 28.3 percent hit rate in 2006. In Los Angeles, the police achieved a hit rate of 40 percent in 2006. In Baltimore, MD, police achieved hit rates of above 60 percent in daylight hours and above 40 percent during low-light encounters, due to training initiatives there. Based on the data, shots by S/Os seemed likely the result of instinctive point and shoot reactions. Surprisingly, hit rates were similar with revolvers or pistols, day or night, which is unusual in our experience.
Rounds Fired. S/Os with pistols fired approximately 3-6 rounds, those with revolvers, usually 1-2. This is somewhat similar to police. Before the NYPD adopted pistols, the average number of shots fired per engagement was about 3.6 rounds. After pistols were adopted, this rate went up to about 4-5 rounds. In Portland, Oregon, on average, shots fired by cops per incident went from 2.6 to 4.6 shots fired after adopting pistols. However, unlike S/Os, the hit rate for police using pistols has gotten better because of training. The necessity for rapid reloading to prevent death/injury was not a factor in any of the cases examined. Most interactions were over in seconds.
In addition, since many S/Os in Florida still carry revolvers, an interesting comparison was possible. Based on data reviewed, on average, S/Os with revolvers fired less rounds than S/Os with pistols, during similar incidents, yet were just as effective in stopping or scaring away the attacker. And for reasons unknown, S/Os assigned to retail security assignments fired three times the amount of rounds overall than S/Os assigned to any other assignment. Nevertheless, despite police hit rates rising due to the use of semi automatic pistols. S/O hit rates in this study showed no improvement since the adoption of semi-automatic pistols. This may denote a need for training changes which we discuss below.
Other. The data collected suggested that S/Os drew their gun mostly to confront other human beings—as opposed to shooting at dogs, which occurred several times. This is underscored repeatedly by adversaries’ “willingness” to challenge S/Os using physical force during retail and residential security assignments—including attempts to disarm S/Os. DACS policy does not require weapons retention training or defensive tactics or physical fitness training.



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