Posted on: Monday, 5 October 2015

Every so often, I come across a terrific article that makes me think everyone involved in security ought to read this.

That’s exactly how I felt about this blog post from our respected colleague and industry expert, Mark Dawes. Mark puts together some genuinely useful information on the psychology of restraint. You should certainly read his 1800 word original here, but the gist of it – with some of our own thoughts thrown in  -is as follows.

Mark asks a crucial question: why is it that security personnel lose control in restraint situations? In some incidents, staff use threats, abusive language, or resort to far more force than the situation warrants. In such cases, the person carrying out the restraint often has to face the full force of enquiries, disciplinary or even legal procedures. And it’s not as though they don’t know the rules – the operatives usually know what problems they will cause themselves, but do it anyway.

Part of the reason lies with our old friend, the fight-or-flight response. When we are faced with a threatening situation – such as a physical confrontation – our level of arousal sky-rockets. Primitive areas of the brain that deal with threat go into overdrive, and a cocktail of stress hormones are dumped into the bloodstream. The results of this can be startling: Mark cites research showing that vision and speech are both strongly affected. Case studies show that following a stressful situation, police officers may be unable to speak coherently. Our ability to process what people are saying can also be compromised – that’s particularly troubling when you consider that this could filter out vital information from senior staff or the person being restrained.

Mark calls this the Rodney King effect, referring to the notorious beating given by two Police Officers that sparked widespread riots in Los Angeles. A contributory factor in that incident may have been the high state of arousal the officers were in as a result of a high speed chase prior to the incident.

But the descent of the red mist is only half of the story. The other half is training. In too many cases, restraint and handling training has been inadequate for the situation. In a high-arousal situation, when the restraint training fails, the outcome is potentially disastrous. The officer or operative falls back on patterns they have learned elsewhere – in MMA training for example – that may be completely inappropriate for the situation. Mark cites the case of a Door Supervisor Brent Wright, who applied an MMA-style choke hold to David Ivin at a Saga Christmas Party in 2012, tragically resulting in Mr. Ivin’s death.

Ineffective restraint training is a widespread problem. At IBA-UK we know and have pointed out before the problems with ineffective instruction. And added to this, Mark identifies the problems caused by bullying organisations and regulatory bodies that interfere with effective, safe practice.

To echo Mark’s sentiments, employers have a duty of care to their staff to ensure they receive the best quality training in restraint. And employees need to protect themselves by ensuring their training is up to the real demands of their job.

We really believe that quality training in positive handling and restraint – like that provided by IBA UK and Mark’s own organisation – can make a big difference. Get in touch to find out what our courses involve and how we can fulfil your training needs in this vital area.

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