Calgary security company comments on tricky balance in their jobs

Upon watching the pixelated, low-quality video of a man being manhandled by mall security, I was stunned. Likely feeling what most people felt when watching the video for the first time. Anger. Disgust. Abhorrence.

On March 16, Dan Doussept, 31, was at Chinook Centre with a friend waiting for a movie at the Scotiabank Theatre Chinook. Doussept was spotted by security sitting on the escalators leading up to the theatre, he was asked to get off. Before long, a tussle with security began, which led to a full confrontation outside of the mall doors.

The video shows Doussept being pressed up against the ground and security guards striking him as he is down on the pavement.

The incident was recorded on a cellphone by a bystander and as of April 11,
Michael Barraza (right) and Adrian Boulier (left) work for MacCon Public Safety for special events and guarding public areas. Barraza and Boulier are seen here guarding the ice-sculptures on display in downtown Calgary in 2011.

Photo by Guillermo Barraza 2013 the video had more than 33,000 views on YouTube and hundreds of comments.

There was very little to go on regarding the details of the incident. Chinook Centre released an official statement, which appeared on its Facebook page, regarding punitive action against one of the security guards.

Calgary Police Service also stated there is a pending investigation.

The bystander’s video only recorded 2:29 minutes of the confrontation.

What I really wanted to know was what could have led to what seems like an unprovoked and brutal attack?

My brother, Michael Barraza, works for a security company called MacCon Public Safety. MacCon specializes in high-profile security for special events and VIP guests who visit Calgary.

Some of the notable visits the company has been hired to oversee are former United States President George W. Bush, and former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Michael has been working for MacCon for three years and is manager of the medical unit. We sat down and watched the video — which he had already seen — and discussed what could have happened to justify, what looked like an unrelenting attack.

Establishing Communication

“One of the first things we’re trained to do is to let the person know what they’re doing that is against premises policy and what measures need to be taken,” Barraza says.

Part of MacCon’s standard training program is verbal de-escalation, or verbal judo. This training teaches security guards how to establish conversation with someone who perhaps needs to be escorted from private property without triggering a violent response.
“Communication is super important,” Barraza says. “It’s our first approach to everything. An arrest is our last resort.”

Acceptable force

As the video plays on, Barraza watches intently. Doussept is struggling under the weight of five security guards, and soon one of the security guards begins to strike Doussept with what looks like devastating force.

“When a suspect is struggling to a point where you can’t get their hands behind their back,” Barraza says. “You need to employ diversionary tactics, strikes, in order for them to concentrate on the pain and be able to pull their hands behind their back where they won’t be able to cause any trouble.”

It’s far too easy to pass judgment on a situation when one knows little of the all the circumstances. I did pass judgement when I first watched the video, but unless properly trained, the average person doesn’t know what amount of force should be used to subdue a person.

Citizen’s right to arrest

I later talked to MacCon’s general manager and operations manager, to get more insight on what amount of force is vindicated in a situation such as the Chinook incident.

Chris MacLean, general manager and company founder, says that training in the use of force is strictly, “department dependent” — at the discrepancy of the individual security company. But ultimately we all abide by the same law.
“Section 494 of the criminal code is the citizen’s power of arrest, so [people] have the same rights as any security department,” says MacLean.

The Canadian Department of Justice allows for citizen’s arrest in the event of a threat to a person, or if someone has been asked to leave a private area. The code also states that a citizen’s arrest can only happen if there are no other authorities around who can make a lawful arrest — such as CPS.

MacLean says the variance in execution is different from company to company, because there is no minimum amount of physical training all potential guards must go through to become a full-fledged security guard.

Damon Wong, MacCon’s operations manager, speaks of the misconceptions regarding security.
“The general public thinks that because we’re security we have more power wearing a uniform,” Wong says. “But I operate within the same rule that you do walking down the street.”

Proper training

“The province came out with a 40-hour training program a couple years ago,” MacLean says. “The problem is you can take it online and at the end there is a 30-question multiple-choice exam.”

MacLean says the training program revolves around observing and reporting. This means that the security guard is recommended to monitor a situation and report to proper authorities, such as CPS, in case there is a need to remove someone from a private area.

What then happens, MacLean says, is that CPS is being called out for minor things that in-house security should be able to handle.

MacLean says there are many similarities between MacCon and Chinook Centre’s in-house security.

“If you had asked me three weeks ago who the top-five security departments in the city were, Chinook would be on that list,” says MacLean. “If you ask me today who the top five security departments are in the city; Chinook would still be on that list.”

But he says that we are all human and sometimes tempers and adrenaline drown out training.

Wong says that it’s best to know when to step away from a situation.
“A lot of what we deal with is verbal threats,” Wong says. “It has to be water off a duck — you can’t let it bother you.”

What happened at Chinook serves as advisement that people should try to keep their cool and remember their training says MacLean. But security, in most cases, is a necessary presence.

gbarraza@cjournal.ca