Public safety officers never know what to expect when responding to a situation. Officers working for SEAL Security – the private security firm contracted by Westchase District – constantly train for the potential danger they face. A suspect could be agitated, have mental issues, or be angry. That’s why a core part of SEAL’s training focuses on de-escalation techniques.
How police respond and their use of force have come under increased scrutiny. With high profile officer involved shootings and deaths, law enforcement training incorporates peaceful, nonviolent outcomes. SEAL replicates this model with the guiding principle that its officers don’t dictate what initially happens.
“We emphasize de-escalation and customer service training,” said James Alexander, SEAL’s chief operating officer. “Our officers are licensed to carry nonlethal and lethal weapons. We find that giving our officers the tools to de-escalate and provide good customer service keep a lot of situations from escalating.”
K-9 officers help make dangerous situations nonlethal
SEAL officers are partnered with K-9 officers, which play a nonlethal role, according to Alexander. “They can communicate and de-escalate an individual quicker. The K-9 allows us to conduct foot patrols of areas that never see security. For example, if a patrol goes behind a convenience store at 3 a.m., K-9’s will alert the officer to someone’s presence long before the officer detects a threat,” said Alexander. The officers know their dogs and read their alert signs. “K-9s are a great asset to our officers,” said Alexander. “We always want nonlethal tools used in all circumstances.”
Management districts and homeowners associations hire SEAL to augment patrols by constables or Houston Police Department. Its coverage area can be as large as where HPD patrols. Providing good customer service is paramount since its customers operate under contracts with SEAL.
SEAL teaches everything from an officer’s stance, tone of voice, word choices, and posture (no hands on a lethal weapon) when approaching individuals its officers encounter during a dispatch call. “Each of these steps has everything to do with whether someone gets angry or not,” said Alexander. What is said in the initial moments of an encounter can diffuse or escalate the situation.
A SEAL officer is trained to begin de-escalation with communication that encourages two-way participation. Addressing suspects in the right tone can influence what happens next. If the conversation gets heated, officers use verbal judo. Officers have OC spray, taser and baton if it reaches a hand-to-hand stage. SEAL officers determine a person’s actions before advancing to each stage. An incident with a knife is treated differently than one with a stick. Alexander says the method works.
Service with transparency
Tracking the types of dispatch calls it receives is how SEAL adjusts its patrols. SEAL produces reports that analyze problem areas. These reports provide an informative picture which SEAL shares with all of its clients. “We want our clients to understand what is happening in their neighborhood, where the hot pockets are, what the challenges are,” said Grant Goldin, SEAL Security President. “We invite feedback so we can adjust accordingly.”
Goldin says the value of the deterrent is where SEAL shines. “We are not law enforcement, we do not claim to be law enforcement,” said Goldin. “We are security.” Goldin says criminals who see SEAL present will go somewhere else.