As front-line security professionals, it sometimes becomes necessary to physically intervene in order to control a subject. While we must always ensure that such a decision is made only once all of the other options have been exhausted, it is equally important that we act with confidence when we are required to do so.
One topic that is important to discuss is the importance of reading another person’s body language and being able to articulate these observations. Here are some things to look for and document:
A few of the mental states of those with whom we become involved in force encounters include anger, depression, fear, disorientation or confusion. Subjects may be defensive, argumentative, evasive, paranoid, or delusional. It is important to go beyond a simple characterization of an individual’s demeanor. While most of us understand what it means when we describe an individual as agitated or about to lose control, it is important to have as much information as possible.
Appearance is a detailed subject description that assists in depicting the threat a subject poses. Your report should include the following:
- What is the subject’s height and weight, and how does that compare to yours? Is the subject muscular, overweight, etc.?
- Does the subject have any tattoos associated with gangs or being in prison?
- Describe the person’s clothing and its potential to conceal weapons. Include weapons or items in the subject’s possession that could be used as weapons. These could be things such as bags, books, pens, umbrellas bottles, cans, newspapers, magazines, matches or cigarettes.
- Describe the subject’s eyes. Are they dilated or constricted? Is the person looking around rapidly, or perhaps “target glancing” towards a part of your body? Are the subject’s eyebrows up, due to fright, or down, due to anger? Pay attention to his blink rate— generally, the more anxious an individual is, the more he blinks.
Pay attention to the subject’s jaw. Is he clenching his teeth? If the chin is raised above a normal position, he may be challenging you. Pay close attention to the muscles around the mouth as well as the throat. The subject may be swallowing excessively or stretching his neck.
A subject rolling his shoulders or stretching in some manner is a serious threat. He may be warming up to either attack or run and he might also be trying to appear nonchalant in order to get you to drop your guard.
Another part to monitor is the subject’s hands. Is he continually putting them in his pockets even after he is told to keep them in view? He may be touching parts of his clothing to check a weapon. An obvious giveaway is the clenching of the fists, but also watch for a suspect who excessively rubs or scratches his head, face or arms.
People who are nervous have a very difficult time standing still, so a subject preparing to attach or run may be moving excessively. If the subject continues to try and close the distance between the Officer and himself, this must be stopped immediately as he may be preparing to attack.
Extremely rapid or very slow speech may indicate a controlled substance influence. Any language that indicates a subject’s loss of reality needs to be documented. Actively listen to what he is saying, pay attention and take everything seriously. Document if the subject is slurring his words, speaking either quietly or loudly, or stuttering.
This is by no means a conclusive list of pre-assault cues and behaviors. These thoughts are provided as a means to assist Security Officers in observing danger, articulating the subject’s means, opportunity and intent then justifying and documenting the Officer’s force responses. A comprehensive report will indeed take time, but is well worth the effort and energy.