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March 30, 2021

What You Need to Know About Rules of Engagement

During your tactical training as a security guard, you may come across what are known as the rules of engagement.

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During your tactical training as a security guard, you may come across what are known as the rules of engagement. This is actually more of a general term that encompasses a unique set of guidelines meant to help guide security guards towards the safest decision when dealing with an offender. These rules will differ depending on your job description, the laws of your state, and the specific situation you find yourself in. However, having a firm grasp on the basics of these rules, and understanding how to think critically about them could make all the difference in a dangerous situation.

What are the basic Rules of Engagement?

In general, the number one rule to keep in mind when dealing with a potentially dangerous subject is that de-escalation should always be attempted if possible before force is ever used. If force must be used, non-lethal force should always be prioritized over deadly force. If deadly force must be used, it should always be a last resort, when no other option is available to protect yourself or those around you.

These rules become slightly more nuanced when discussing the non-lethal weapons carried by many security personnel. Some organizations may not permit their guards to carry firearms, but rather batons, pepper spray, or tasers. While these weapons are intended to be used to subdue a combatant without causing deadly harm, without proper training they can be just as lethal as a gun. With this in mind, the same care should be taken to avoid using these weapons unless the situation calls for it.

In cases where you are simply dealing with someone causing a scene, a singular suspicious person, or someone who is unarmed, verbal de-escalation should be at the forefront of your mind. There should be no reason to engage physically with these types of perpetrators unless they make attempts to cause physical harm to yourself or others.

What situations call for physical engagement?

If verbal de-escalation is no longer an option, you may find yourself in a situation that requires the use of a non-lethal weapon. Examples of possible scenarios in which these may be required include: an offender brandishing a non-lethal weapon and making attempts to attack you or others, an offender who making physical threats and is unable to be overpowered by a single officer, or if an offender is physically resisting all attempts to be removed from a premise and is exceedingly difficult to restrain.

These scenarios are no exhaustive, and are increasingly complicated by what non-lethal weapon is being used. Pepper spray perhaps requires the least forethought and training to be used safely and effectively, while both batons and tasers are weapons that can be lethal if used incorrectly. If the latter two are to be your weapons of choice, training is required to ensure that you are using them both safely and only on those who are not likely to suffer long term effects from their use. For instance, using a taser on anyone above a certain age, pregnant women, or teens and children is much riskier than tasing the average adult. It is important when engaging with these weapons that you think critically about their use and defer to your training to ensure you do not cause unnecessary harm or use excessive force.

Only in the most dangerous of situations should a firearm be used to engage with an offender. Situations that may warrant the use of one include when a firearm or other deadly weapon is being used by an offender to threaten yourself or others. Even then, unless the offender is actively shooting, or otherwise actively causing physical harm, all shots fired at them should attempt to aim for extremities and not the head or chest. Extensive firearm training is a necessity for all guards who carry deadly weapons, to ensure that they not only cause any accidental harm, but feel confident firing in high-stress situations.

How can I learn my specific rules of engagement?

The organization you are protecting, or looking to protect, will have the opportunity to create their own guidelines in accordance with state laws for their security guards to follow.  For instance, tasers are not legal in all 50 states for personnel other than police to carry. Similarly, possibly lethal weapons carry a lot of legal weight as they can be abused or misused by those who have received improper training. This can lead to lengthy and expensive law suits that may feel like too much of a risk for certain organizations. Others may simply feel that the level of security required for their needs is very low, and so only provide guards with restraints or pepper spray. The rules of engagement for your job should be discussed in-depth by your team to understand the legality and thought process behind any decisions made.

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