Intervention against violence

by Mark Rowe

Violence and how to reduce it – whether against customers or by-standers, or security or other staff doing their jobs – is a theme of the April and May 2018 print issues of Professional Security magazine. Trainer Ian Kirke’s post-graduate research (for the University of Portsmouth) has been on physical intervention against violence in the retail sector. Here’s a digest of his conclusions. Retail security when managing shop floor violence and aggression is unfit for purpose, says Ian, pictured.

At shop floor level those charged with maintaining security (either in-house or contracted-in guards) are poorly equipped, both in terms of appropriate operational training and general awareness of safety tactics and legal justifications, confused and present easy targets both in terms of being assaulted themselves or inflicting the same on those they seek to deter from committing crime. Death, on both sides of the equation, as evidenced within this research is also a potential outcome.

PI (physical intervention), as a justified response to the higher end risks, is wholly misunderstood by retail and especially those in seniority who are charged with setting workplace violence policy and procuring security services including contracted-in guards to those business locations that pulse a red danger warning on the dashboards of their sophisticated risk analysis software consoles. A jaundiced view on its application as a significantly pain biased measure is perpetrated by the thinking of higher-ranking retail managers, many with a CJS [criminal justice system] background, when in truth PI as a regulated security discipline mirrors a more elegant posture as demonstrated by the ‘body mechanics’ methodology. Consequently, policy statements make great play on a total ‘hands-off’ approach contravening the right of every citizen to protect themselves and others in the prevention of crime. When a high-risk incident occurs within retail, not doing anything may be more dangerous. Those unfortunates in the middle, primarily contracted-in guards and dedicated in-house retail teams are often placed in a Catch 22 position. Dammed if they take any form of proportionate action and dammed if they don’t, yet if they do only a little over half will have had any formal training. In the night-time economy things are different and PI is a compulsory requirement even though the same people that frequent nightclubs and are inclined to use violence as a method of operation, shop in the same communities and display the same acts of aggression, especially when challenged by a retail security operative.

Statute provides an unambiguous steer on the issue of reasonable force and the abundance of contemporary case law has provided an accessible template for the manner in which violent situations should be managed and PI remains an effective and proportionate remedy within the suite of reasonable responses. Furthermore, the baseline adequacy of PI training as evidenced, for example, within the regulated night-time economy and the NHS, is both affordable and accessible in terms of trainer contact time. Applicable health and safety regulations, when read literally, do not seek to frustrate retailers.

As local policing budgets are squeezed and police response times, no matter how fast, will never magically drop police officers onto the scene of a violent incident as it erupts retailers must accept that their dedicated security staff and the contracted-in guards that are very often shoulder to shoulder with them in the face of often daunting and repetitive acts of violence must be allowed to fill the void without unnecessary and restrictive red-tape. In answer to the headline proposition, “Let’s get physical?” – Is there ever a place for physical intervention within the retail security sector?’ the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’.

About the author: Ian Kirke is MD of training company TfS: visit

For more on TFS training in physical intervention, exit and breakaway strategies, visit

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