Civil unrest is not something all private security companies are trained to handle. From a historical perspective, the events after George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, may have been predictable. Protesting against an unjust social system or act is not a new phenomenon. From the Boston Tea Party to the Stockyards Riots in Chicago (known as the “Red Summer”), citizens have always demonstrated their anger or disagreement with uncivil social norms.
As Chicago’s largest community policing provider, AGB Investigative Services stands out among private security contractors as apt and able to address challenges in business corridors. This is possible due to its strong emphasis on training. In addition, AGB’s 24/7 dispatch and top tier technology and communication systems aide in the professional and swift response to spontaneous situations. At the time and in the weeks that followed Floyd’s death, AGB’s training was put to the test and proven effective due in large part to its strategic planning, skilled workforce and rapid deployment.
Crowds formed spontaneously in the first days of unrest after George Floyd’s death. Mobile or foot patrols could deter trespassing by their presence, but patrol officers also could rely on their training to watch, listen and assess the threat. Communicating to our dispatcher and to the patrol supervisor, they had a better idea of what was happening around them. In the second weekend, we deployed 92 officers to channel marchers and to contain, divert or disperse opportunists who might hijack a peaceful protest or use the distraction as a cover for looting.
Business Patrols Position Officers to Go Above and Beyond
Beyond its role as private security contractors to large retail chains and small community merchants, AGB also provides physical security and mobile patrol services to Chicago business districts, through a Chicago city program known as Special Service Areas. Special Service Areas known as SSAs are tax districts that fund expanded programs and services within a city-designated area. While upscale communities may select to spend their dollars on beautification, other communities choose community policing.
As the largest provider of community policing in Chicago, AGB placed its officers immediately on patrol around the clock to limit the threat of violence as well as secure buildings. In addition, Special Response Team training prepared AGB to be one of three security services companies the City of Chicago selected to supplement police patrols in deterring looting.
Physical security can make a difference simply in how officers conduct themselves in uniform. They can never truly control others. However, their required instruction at the nonprofit AGB Institute shows how communicating with respect makes others more willing to cooperate. Restraint supports the officer’s authority and puts retail customers at ease. We hire from the community and model behavior that treats neighbors with dignity.
Guards Rehearse a Role With No Drama
AGB’s private guards also understand their boundaries. They understand that they are not the police. This understanding has helped AGB form a very effective and meaningful relationship with sworn law enforcement. We are often the first on the scene of many violent acts and as such exercise our ability to contain a crime scene until properly handing it off to appropriate authorities.
As with other private security contractors, we give unarmed guards standing rules to call for backup in uncertain situations. But beyond these post orders, we believe that security guards require a higher level of training so their response becomes second nature. To that end, introductory classes feature role-playing exercises in de-escalation techniques. A confrontational approach easily can draw a heated response. It takes self-awareness and discipline to not take things personally and avoid fanning the flames. With support from our own mobile patrols or 911, it is easier to deal with passive resistance than active aggression.
Our special response team gets tactical training beyond what is required by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). Team members receive four weeks of unarmed training to qualify for a guard card, four weeks to qualify for firearms certification and eight weeks of advanced security training in conflict resolution, law, stress management and other aspects beyond licensing requirements.
Training Leaders Through Knowledge and Influence
Quick-response team members are trained in the use of objectively reasonable, necessary and proportional use of force, following the Chicago Police’s reformed model. They are introduced to tactical training in the use of tasers, OC or pepper spray and combat formation. One exercise involves staying focused after being impacted by OC spray and working through it until properly detaining the suspect.
As events reveal the abuse of police powers, it is especially important to teach private guards the limits to use of force. The 4th Amendment provides for the security of all persons and reserves for police the power to detain. The security officer is just a trained citizen, given more responsibility to defend property, people, and things; but once again understanding their limited powers as “trained citizens”. Guards must not engage in force or the use of deadly force outside of the Use of Force laws in Illinois. Whenever force is used, the protocol is to always engage the police.
Our training, approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), has been transformed in the wake of the coronavirus. The AGB Institute lays an educational foundation with online lessons and builds on this knowledge with classes taught in our 16,000-square-foot training facility, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of assembly. Supervisors reinforce the instruction with guards at their posts. AGB also requires more frequent firearms training than the state requires.
The reason, established by founder John Griffin Jr., is that security officers are true first responders. In a troubled world they need to be prepared for anything, from working alongside Chicago Police to leading by example in society. After Floyd’s death, civil unrest was only one more test.
Elder JRC Johnny Tyler is AGB’s executive vice president of education and training.