The scene opens with a close up, wide shot of Patrick Schwaze. As he paces back and forth, sporting arguably the most appealing of the mullets in the room, he prepares his team of bouncers for the mayhem they will likely face later on.

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De-escalation: “If you don’t know, now you know”

He does so by imparting three key pieces of advice to them:

  1. “Never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.”
  2. “Take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
  3. “Be nice… If he won’t walk, walk him but be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you and you’ll both be nice. I want you to remember it’s just a job. It’s nothing personal.”

The first piece of advice is very true. Do not underestimate people! Let me say that again, “DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE PEOPLE,” This advice extends far beyond the world of security, by the way.

The second piece of advice, I believe to be somewhat problematic. At Sentinel we are not bouncers. We believe in de-escalation first. It’s not our goal to automatically inflict harm on unruly patrons and let’s face it, taking someone outside isn’t exactly giving the message that you are going to escort them along a rose pedal covered path to their car as you sweetly serenade them with wishes for a good night. Besides, we dress impeccably. Who is really trying to get their suit torn to shreds from a fight?!

The third piece of advice is likely the closes to our approach at Sentinel. Instead of the word ‘nice’ I believe a more suitable word is respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

We believe in treating people with respect regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Why? Because the majority of conflicts start because someone feels they have been disrespected. Think about it.

Our weapon of choice is always de-escalation. Yes, things may ultimately get physical but we’re even trained on how to physically de-escalate situations as well.

Just so you know, de-escalation is a verb that means to “reduce the intensity of (a conflict or potentially violent situation).”

Here’s the thing I’ve learned recently about de-escalation, from the outside it looks boring and somewhat counter-intuitive.

Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say we’re working at a venue and get word there is a very angry patron. Instead of immediately running over, putting them in a chokehold and dragging them out of the establishment (yes, it looks very exciting but it would likely result in a lawsuit) and throwing them out the front door, Uncle Phil style, we’re trained to handle the situation much differently.

For starters, if someone is very upset it’s not a good idea to aggressively approach them. Doing so will undoubtedly make them defensive and more upset. It’s better to confidently approach them and simply ask them if you can talk to them over to the side. Next, you listen. I know this isn’t exciting but bottom line, people just want to be heard and if you give them the opportunity than they will usually (not always) calm down.

The next steps to be taken really depend on the situation, but rest assured we assess all the variables in order to make a sound decision.

Now here’s what I’ve learned recently, we are trained to handle situations in an appropriate manner and so we don’t really think twice about how what we do appears to people outside of the situation. I have also realized that due to the nature of our jobs we see a lot of conflict and can quite easily tell whether or not a patron is a legitimate threat to others’ safety. Since we deal with conflict a lot admittedly, we are often unphased by it, but that isn’t necessarily the case for those witnessing the situation. They may see someone as a legitimate threat and fear for their safety. This is something I realized we sometimes forget.

For these reasons, I have realized it’s not only important to de-escalate situations but it’s also just as important to communicate to others exactly what’s happening as much as we can. This is important so that they know that the situation in actually being handled. It’s also important for them to know the reason why we are calm when dealing with conflict situations is because it is in everyone’s best interest to mitigate all forms of threats.

Say for example someone has a volatile temper and is capable of becoming very aggressive, it’s our responsibility to ensure this person does not hurt anyone else. If we approach them in a way that causes them to become violent now, we are putting others at risk. As boring as the de-escalation process looks like there is a very good reason, we use it. It works.

Much like Patrick Schwaze’s scene in Road House, I have learned how important it is to let others know what to expect. This helps to put their minds at ease. This prevents them from wondering why people aren’t flying through the air with bloody noses and black eyes because real life is not a movie set. There is no director to yell, “cut” and we certainly don’t have stunt doubles. For everybody’s safety, we prefer to not to let situations get out of control. “So, if you don’t know, now you know.”


Guest Blogger Christina Mayers