As officers use verbal de-escalation techniques, they should be on the lookout for physical signs that it isn’t working and the conflict is, instead, escalating. These are indicators of conflict escalation. All these signs are to be monitored during the conversation while maintaining the effective tactical positioning.
One of the most overlooked warning signs during escalating conflict situations is when the person looks away prior to launching a strike. From reviewing a large amount of video of conflict situations in entertainment environments, I find that a large number of assaults on security operatives and venue management could be avoided by awareness of that warning sign, coupled with the correct stance.
Additional warning signs include when patrons clench their fists or tighten and untighten their jaw. A sudden change in body language or tone used during a conversation can also be an indicator as can pacing or fidgeting. Another indicator is the “rooster stance,” which is when the chest protrudes out more and arms move away from the body.
As part of the training, officers should view CCTV footage of other officers in conflict situations. The footage can show these indicators and how they tend to be followed by an escalation of the conflict. It can also demonstrate how security officers can create distance between themselves and an offender.
The best chance of success at minimizing conflict in a hospitality or entertainment environment is effective preparation and training. This training needs to be revisited regularly and include the entire security department to ensure that the skills it teaches become second nature. Developing such a training program is an invaluable investment in protecting the company’s property and its patrons.
About the Author: Scott Taylor, CPP, is national operations manager for Exact Security in Bella Vista, New South Wales, Australia. He is a member of the ASIS International Hospitality, Entertainment, and Tourism Security Council.