4 tips for working off-duty security
Following the recent report of a Houston officer who was shot during an off-duty security shift, it’s a good idea to consider a few safety issues related to this kind of work. Read the four tips below, and we welcome your input on more.
1. Always maintain an on-duty level of awareness, even when working an off-duty security job. This might be easier said than done. When you put on a uniform, strap on your duty gear, go through roll call and jump in a squad to head out on patrol, you’re following a physical and mental preparedness pattern that will help you transition into an on-duty level of tactical awareness. When you’re working an off-duty security job, particularly if you’re working in civilian clothes, that ritual build-up you follow on duty may be noticeably diminished, if not completely eliminated. Additionally, your work setting will likely be noticeably different than the typical street setting you experience on patrol, so your mindset about being “on the job” may be diluted.
Candidly consider how you prepare yourself, both mentally and physically, prior to going on the clock in an off-duty security job and ask yourself, “Am I taking the time necessary to fully prepare myself for the risks I might face on this job, and have I acknowledged the fact that I may suddenly be put in the same position of risk that I could face while on patrol? Am I maintaining the same level of tactical awareness that can help me stay safe and effective on the street while I’m standing post on this off-duty job?”
One other thing to consider relative to your level of tactical awareness on an after-hours job is fatigue, which is very often highlighted as a serious threat to officer safety. This risk can be considerably magnified in a situation where you’ve work a full shift, gone home for a short time (or not at all), grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed right out the door to an off-duty security shift. Seriously consider your level of fatigue and if you find that you’re basically sleeping on your feet during your off-duty security shifts, take a cold hard look at the risks you face versus your rewards. If you’re repeatedly dozing off, how quickly could you recognize and respond to a threat? If a criminal were to observe you from afar to evaluate how much of a risk you pose to him, what would he conclude? Would he see a security professional who’s sharp, alert and ready to meet the security responsibilities he might be preparing to challenge or would he spot someone who’s tired, unfocused, oblivious and seriously vulnerable?
2. Evaluate the stopping power of the firearm you carry and be sure to train with it. Presumably you train consistently with your duty weapon and you’re fully prepared to use it effectively. If that’s not the gun you carry during an off-duty gig, make it a point to train with the weapon you do carry and be sure that you’re just a proficient with it as you are with your duty sidearm. Also consider the stopping power of your off duty weapon and the rounds you’re carrying and make sure they’re able to meet the demands of quickly and effectively stopping a threat.
3. Practice tactics in the clothing you wear during your off duty security job. If you’re working in civilian clothing or in a uniform where your gear configuration is different than that of your duty belt, be sure to consistently practice accessing your gear while wearing those clothes.
4. Consider your work setting and be prepared to deal with it. Think about the atmosphere in which you’re working and be sure you’re prepared to deal with any special challenges it might present in a crisis situation. An example would be a retail store setting. Have you considered the unique issues you might face should you find yourself engaged in an armed encounter there? Have you thought about how you’re going to deal with the problem of having lots of innocent people around in a contained space should you find yourself faced with a situation that demands an armed response? Are you prepared to navigate hoards of panicked, frenzied people should a shooting or other major encounter erupt? Have you identified locations of cover you could quickly access in your work setting should you need to? Practice when/then thinking just as you would on duty.
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