It's quite a tough job out there for those who are trying to provide a good professional service for the night time leisure industry. We've all seen the media coverage of drunken revellers out on the razz - binge drinking, violence and disruption on a grand scale often predominates, with the propensity for some to carry knives and an escalating increase in gun crime it's all to easy to see that sometimes it just doesn't seem as safe as it ought to be out there.
These drunken rampages will sometimes end in violence, disorder; increases in crime with people getting hurt and ending up in the nearest hospital. That being the case it's quite clear that we do need some form of security in order to maintain law and order and to help promote public safety.
If the SIA figures are correct they tell us that there are some 300,000 to half-a-million people are working in the UK's security sector which compares with approximately 136,000 police officers, so whilst many of us may prefer the security of knowing that our police force are patrolling the streets and responsible for law and order the reality is that they are insufficient in numbers to properly and adequately provide sufficient cover for the whole of the night time economy. The security industry is rapidly expanding and the number of those numbers employed in the role are set to grow significantly. According to the SIA the annual revenue of the UK 's private security industry is between £3 and £4 billion and this is obviously set to grow as the industry expands.
Whilst we all need to take personal responsibility for our behaviour we must also recognise the importance of the role that those who work in this industry assume - it's neither a popular role and is often a very challenging role. Front line workers are often targets for the less scrupulous and some face high levels of violence and aggression in one form or another on a regular basis.
However, given the rather chequered history of the nightclub bouncer there has long been recognition that the security industry has needed regulation and control. There are many good, qualified and professional operators who have a really difficult job to do and role to fulfil - often they are targets for the general public but on top of that they are also hampered by the poor reputation that some in the profession have earned, so it must seem to them that they are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea - on top of that media coverage of them is often negative. Given that this industry has long held such a poor reputation and in order to ensure it becomes properly regulated and controlled the Private Security Industry Act 2001 was introduced.
The introduction of the act heralded many changes for the industry - the most important being that the old fashioned bouncer now officially becomes a Door Supervisor (or in some circles a 'Meeter and Greeter') and is now subject to licensing and regulation by the SIA - the body responsible for enforcing the act. Since March 2006 it has become illegal in the UK for any Door Supervisor to work without holding and displaying an official license. In order to obtain a license to work in the industry people wanting to become a qualified Door Supervisor need to undergo police checks and proper training. Make no mistake about it, this regulation is necessary and vital, the people working as operatives are given a lot of power over the general public, sometimes they arrest, sometimes they use handcuffs and sometimes they use physical restraint - these are all areas that are complex in law and those using them need to be trained to a high standard. Of course they do not have the powers of a police officer and can only make a citizens arrest, they should not be using handcuffs but we know that many do, the use of physical restraint in the wrong hands has led to death and disability for the recipient.
The training is intended to be robust and inclusive - indeed the Level 2 City and Guilds National Certificate for Door Supervisors encompasses a wide range of related subjects with the aim of providing a good basic skill base for the professional. The course requires participants to undertake examinations in order to ensure that they have understood the course work and will therefore be able and competent to put theory into practice effectively.
The course covers all aspects of the role of Door Supervisors and clearly sets out expected behavioural standards and customer service skills. It studies the law in both a civil and in a criminal context as it applies to the role. Health and Safety is also part of the curriculum. There is strong emphasis on equal opportunities and anti discriminatory practice, first aid and emergencies also assume significance alongside guidance on how to deal appropriately with offensive weapons, drugs, arrest and young persons. The course also has a major component that deals with conflict management/resolution and the emphasis is firmly on self-awareness, conflict avoidance, diffusing difficult situations, resolving and learning from conflict. The courses on offer therefore offer a wide ranging opportunity for professionals to build on their experience and knowledge and thus widen and improve their existing skill base. It is worth noting that professionals should always display their licensing badge when on duty and working.
So - with the introduction of the act and the newly emerging SIA the customer can expect those professionals working in the industry to exhibit and maintain a high level of service at an expected and appropriate standard. Door Supervisors are members of a profession with a great deal of responsibility - not the least being that a major part of their role is so obviously one of public protection.
So - in essence the times they are a-changing and the old fashioned Bouncer is undoubtedly becoming a dinosaur belonging firmly in the past. The new people coming into the industry are changing and setting new standards which will ultimately lead to better relationships all round. These professionals will, because of the changes, have a long overdue and proper career path to follow and belong to a profession of which they can be rightly proud. So we welcome the changes and salute those professionals who are rising to the challenges and difficulties that such major change brings about - change is never an easy thing and those who have worked so hard to embrace it deserve our respect.
There are many professionals out there who are doing a superb job in helping to keep us safe - they take their role seriously - embrace the training opportunities that the changes have brought about and ultimately are flying the flag for a profession that is emerging as a necessary and vital role enabling the night time economy to flourish - they really are the backbone.
So - are the changes happening fast enough and are those working in the role responding to the challenges? Well obviously things are in a state of transition at the moment with a number of people having to come to terms with the changes in their profession - indeed, becoming a professional is a hard path for some.
My own experiences suggest that there may still be some way to go before we can have the level of overall trust necessary in all those professionals charged with public safety and working in the security industry.
Door Supervisors are clearly at the start of a process of change and change is difficult to achieve and filter through, they are getting there and will get there, the professionals who do give a good service need to be aware of the problems that may still predominate and they also need to take positive action with the proper authorities - the SIA and the police - to drum what's left of the bad apples out of the profession.
So, in the current climate what can we say to people who may have a problem with security when out and about? We think that under no circumstances should you argue or try to stick up for your rights in this situation - get yourself away as quickly as possible. If the Door Supervisor concerned is wearing their badge correctly you should be able to see their ID - make a mental note of it and write it down as soon as you are in a position to do so.
Contact the police and register a complaint immediately. If you have been assaulted and have any injuries go to the nearest hospital and get them recorded. The local council licensing department are responsible for granting the license to a premises - lodge a complaint with them - they will take your complaint seriously.
Lastly - contact the SIA - they need to know - you can access them via the net at: http://www.the-sia.org.uk/home
Or you can write to them at:
Security Industry Authority
PO Box 9
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tel: 08702 430 100
Fax: 08702 430 125
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