Introduction

During the first quarter of 2020, an online survey was undertaken with the intention of better understanding this relationship. Prior to the survey, very little research had been conducted in this area.

This report will analyse the survey’s findings and draw some basic conclusions from them.

The purpose of the survey was to accumulate first-hand data pertaining to the relationship between security personnel (particularly door supervisors) and police. The survey only included UK-based security staff.

Secondary aims of the survey included:

  • Gaining a broad, representative understanding of the general attitude British security personnel have towards the police.
  • Understanding if security personnel in different regions of the UK hold differing views of the police.

In many ways, door supervisors and security personnel are on the ‘front line’ whenever an emergency situation arises. Emergencies can be medical in nature, or else they can concern violent or anti-social behaviour. In some cases, emergency situations may even include health hazards such as fire or structural problems with the venue in question.

Because they are often first on the scene, security staff are sometimes heavily scrutinised (even penalised) for their handling of these emergencies.

In 2019 alone, police made 100 arrests of bouncers in the city of Manchester. In other areas, bouncers have been linked to violent assaults and other aggressive behaviours.

As of 2019, there were 361,309 registered SIA (Security Industry Authority) staff in the United Kingdom. In 2015, 1,891 SIA door supervisors had their licenses revoked.

The reasons for these revocations are not given because they are considered confidential. However, it is interesting to note that the number of SIA licenses being revoked has steadily decreased in recent years.

In 2016, the number of licenses revoked was 1,278, in 2017, it was 1,179, in 2018, 902 and in 2019 it had decreased to 713 (with figures as-yet unavailable for the end of the year). Does this point to a better relationship between security staff and police? Does there now exist a higher standard of training for SIA licensed individuals, more stringent regulations at the SIA or all of the above?

Though the survey did not aim to answer these questions directly, they were considered throughout, along with the rest of the information on display in this section.  

Within what is termed the ‘evening and night time economy’ (ENTE), police officers and security personnel are expected to engage in something of a symbiotic relationship, similar to what we see in Newcastle).

This working partnership is essential to ensure the safety of night time customers and bar or club patrons, as well as other members of the general public. 

The UK’s evening and night time economy presently has an estimated worth of up to £60Bn, so this is a key economic area for the UK economy.

Paradoxically, the growth of the night time economy has coincided with an overall decrease in the number of police officers.

According to GMB, the Police officer’s union, government cuts have seen 23,500 police jobs lost since 2010. These cuts include the loss of 7000 Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) roles.

London has been hit particularly hard by the cuts, losing nearly half of all police roles in the city since 2010, a period that has seen a huge increase in knife crime, acid attacks and violent behaviour in and around the capital. It seems likely that these cuts would also affect security personnel in a number of key ways.

This information is given as relevant background data in order to help provide context to the analysis and conclusions that appear later on in this report.

The main talking points of the survey were as follows:

  • Do the police have a good understanding of the job performed by door supervisors?
  • What is the relationship between door supervisors and police like?
  • Are officers proactive with security staff? Do they work to create a good relationship?
  • What do door supervisors generally think of the police?
  • Is there mutual respect between the police and door supervisors?
  • How often do door supervisors see their local police officers during their shifts? Does this presence (or lack thereof) impact the behaviour of the patrons in their respective clubs/pubs/venues?
  • Does a police presence change the attitude of people in said pubs/clubs/venues?
  • What suggestions can door supervisors or security staff offer that might potentially improve this relationship?

Methods Used

The survey questioned 259 individual people, all of whom were UK-based security staff. The survey was conducted entirely online, via the Working the Doors website, and posted on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram relevant to the Door supervisors and security staff.

The qualifying question was ‘what license do you hold?’ as answers were required only from formally qualified people that are currently working (or eligible to work) in the field of security.

Roughly 1.5% of respondents answered ‘none of the above’. These answers were filtered out.

2.3% of respondents declared themselves to be based outside of the UK. Again, these answers were filtered out, in order that the study remain focussed on the United Kingdom.

Once both of these answers had been filtered out, 250 viable responses remained. It is from these 250 that the results of this survey were taken.

For the survey itself, 10 questions were asked. 9 of these questions took the form of ‘multiple choice’. The final question, asked respondents to suggest ways in which the working relationship between door supervisors and police might be improved and was entirely open to the respondent.

The nature of the survey does reveal certain limitations, which it would be remiss not to acknowledge here.

Firstly, the relatively small study sample is indicative only of the views and experiences of 250 UK-based door supervisors

Different areas of the country will experience different levels of police presence. This, along with other regional differences, may have affect the answers to the survey. This must be taken into account before the findings are formally assessed. 

Questions Asked  

  1. What license do you hold? (8 possible answers, including ‘none of the above’).
  2. What part of the country do you work in? (drop-down menu featuring different regions of the UK).
  3. Do you have a good relationship with your local police? (Y/N).
  4. What is the relationship like? (4 possible answers: first-name terms, simple pleasantries, no contact or different officers each night).
  5. Do you actively build a relationship with local police officers? (Y/N).
  6. Do police actively build a relationship with you? (Y/N).
  7. When working on the door of your venue, how often do you see police walking past during an evening? (5 possible answers: every hour, every couple of hours, once a night, once a weekend or never).
  8. Which of the following most impacts the behaviour of pub and club goers? (3 possible answers: permanent visible police presence, intermittent presence of the police or it is irrelevant if police are present or not).
  9. Do you feel that the police understand the role you play within the night time economy? (Y/N/Maybe).
  10. Is there one thing the police can do to build a better relationship? (This was the voluntary question that required a written answer).

Results

What follows is a concise summary of the survey results. This summary is taken from the aggregate data provided by the 250 people who answered the survey.

  • Of the respondents, 92.3% said that they held an active door supervisor’s license. This was very good for the survey, as it demonstrated that the answers were likely coming from people who were presently active in the field of door supervision. These respondents were therefore in a position to offer an accurate first person viewpoint.
  • 5% of respondents held an active close protection license, while 1.2% had a security guard license.
  • For context, it is worth mentioning that people who hold close protection licenses are able to work as door supervisors, but people with security guard licenses are not able to work as door supervisors.
  • Respondents from the North-West made up 13.9% of the overall answers, whereas 12.7% of respondents hailed from the South-East. A relatively small percentage (3.5%) were working in central London.
  • Over two-thirds (70%) of respondents reported that they had a good relationship with their local police.
  • 47.4% of people said that, although the relationship was a positive one, it did not go further than simple pleasantries (e.g. “hello. How are you doing?” etc).
  • 16.3% of respondents answered that they were on first name terms with their local police. However, 11.2% stated that they had no contact whatsoever with police.
  • 24.7% said that, although they do see police officers, they do not see the same officers on a nightly basis and are therefore unable to forge a closer working relationship.
  • 65.6% revealed that they actively try to cultivate a relationship with police, while 34.4% said that they did not.
  • 60.8% said that the police did not make any serious attempt to build a relationship with them, while 39.2% felt differently, claiming that the police do indeed tried to build a working relationship with them.
  • 38% of respondents felt that police did not fully understand the job that door supervisors do. 31% weren’t sure, answering the question with a ‘maybe’. Another 31% responded that they felt comfortable that the police understood what their jobs entail.
  • When asked if a police presence significantly altered the behaviour of their patrons, 46% replied that it had no impact whatsoever. 30% found that a permanent police presence had a definite effect, while 24% believed that an intermittent police presence certainly impacted the behaviour of their patrons.

Regarding the reduction in police numbers discussed elsewhere in this report, respondents were asked how often they see police officers on patrol whilst they are at work. 8.8% said that they saw police officers on an hourly basis, while 28% responded that they saw police only every couple of hours. 19.6% answered that they only saw police officers about once a night, with 20.4% answering that they only saw police officers once over an entire weekend. 23.2% said that they never saw any police officers at all whilst working.

Written Results

The final question, which required a written answer instead of choosing from pre-existing options, was not mandatory. As a result, some participants chose not to answer it. All told, 170 respondents offered written comments in reply to this section.

All of these written answers gave and insight into the respondents’ relationship with their local police very well.

The answers strongly demonstrated a desire among door supervisors for an increase in police patrolling the streets at night. What follows are a few relevant examples from the survey.

“[We need] More officers on the street. [They are] Too stretched to visit every venue. [We need] More local officers. Some officers have to travel 45 minutes to our venue despite a station being 10 minutes away, this is due to lack of officers.”

“[We need] More police on the beat. We’re lucky to see them on a or Friday or Saturday. Response times are shocking, if they even turn up. But I put that down to the CCTV ops sometimes.”

“[There are] Not enough police to assist with drunks breaching the peace or [being] drunk and disorderly.”

Respondents also indicated a strong sympathy with the pressures faced by a constabulary struggling with severe government cuts to its funding. Some also remarked on the negative impact these cuts have had on their own professional lives.

“The police need to understand that we know they are stretched, but we as doorman have to do their job because they’re not about. If we radio for assistance, 70% of the time they don’t come. [It can sometimes be] an hour before they arrive. We get assaulted more then them and have to deal with much more abuse. The moment the police are present it can stop 90% of issues immediately.”

“We used to have a great relationship with the police but cuts mean less police presence and we barely see the same officers from month to month.”

A recurring notion was the idea that police do not understand the roles filled by security personnel or the key role they play within the night time economy. This view made up 38% of the multiple choice answer to this specific question, which was the largest, in percentage, of the three available options for that question. The written section added significantly to this finding.

There was also a feeling among door supervisors that they were misrepresented, in addition to being misunderstood.

“[The police need] A better understanding and respect for our role.”

“[Local police should] Appreciate the job we do, as in understand it. [They need to understand] What we have to deal with, using the limited powers we have.”

“I would ask them to trust us. We aren’t thugs. Some of us are very well educated, (I’m a mechanical engineer). We are on the same side. Unfortunately, some officers don’t seem to accept that. We will always support you. Please support us.”

“The police should spend a bit more time getting both sides of the story, not just the punters’. There are some police officers who don’t understand what we have to do in this job.”

“[They should] Stop looking at us as criminals or thugs. We work hard and in dangerous situations fuelled by alcohol and drugs. [We have] no protection or tools like pepper spray, batons [or] Tasers, to our advantage. I’ve been beaten, stabbed, threatened with guns, jumped by groups of 10 men with weapons and its “part of the job”. The police need to work with us and not see us [as] part of the problem.”

“[The police need to] Make more of an effort to speak to the door supervisors, [to] learn more about the SIA. The police should appreciate that we are [on the] front line and should support us, not work against us.”

“[Police should] Try to understand that we do our job without the equipment they have at their disposal.”

Many respondents explained that they have very positive relationships with police, especially those they see regularly and can therefore cultivate a working relationship with. According to the answers, door supervisors struggle more with officers that they don’t have any kind of relationship with.

“Police that know us are great but there are some that turn up to incidents well after we have controlled the situation and [they] don’t seem to care that door staff have had to struggle with aggressive, violent people.” 

“Most of our local coppers work with us, but sometimes we get some from other areas who seem to want to see us as the enemy. This attitude needs sorting, as it just causes more problems. Keep the same coppers in the same areas, that way they get to know the door staff and regulars at pubs and clubs and can build a rapport.” 

“More presence on the street [is needed]. Although I have a good relationship, it’s probably because I’m an ex cop. The younger ones don’t understand your role and [are] not really interested.”

“The police should appreciate that we are [on the] front line and should support us, not work against us.”

Many of the responses suggested that improved communication between door supervisors and the police would be greatly beneficial to both parties.

“[Police officers should] Have more meetings with the door staff and keep us updated with who is on pub watch”

“[Police should] Go check if everything is ok in the venues” 

“Town centre police teams could/should call a meeting once a month with all relevant HD’s and/or relevant parties/companies to share intel and [have] a basic ‘team building’ session between venues and police”

“A sit down with police and head doorman would probably be a good shout, as we do sometimes get it wrong but most of the time we go above and beyond and they can let us know how we can get a good rapport with them”

“[Police officers should] Say ‘hello’ first [and] build the rapport themselves. [They should] Find out who is shifty etc [and] Learn [about] dodgy venues”

“[Police need] More contact with door staff. We are not the enemy but eyes on the street”

“[Police officers ought to] Introduce themselves every night to the door staff on duty in the clubs”

“[Police could] Have meetings with local door staff maybe every 6 months to help make the relationship stronger”

“[Police should] Be more present & talk to us, hang around & interact with us & our customers.  [They could] Come see what the venue is like [and] what type of customers we attract. On major sports events, [police should] definitely be more present, just to keep some people more calm”

“We rarely get a police presence at [our] venue. When we have had issues, we don’t get a quick response from them. When they are patrolling their areas maybe [they should] check in with door staff and see how [the] night is going”

Such actions on the part of the police may actually make their own jobs a lot easier, especially if a clear warning from a uniformed police offer deters a potential situation from occurring after closing time.

Another interesting suggestion that was put forward a few times involved giving police officers access to some door supervisor training or even allowing them to work an evening alongside door staff. It was even suggested by some that police offer extra training for door supervisors in order to make them more effective at their jobs.

The difficulty of setting something like this up notwithstanding, the idea does hold some merit and, if implemented correctly, could have the potential to yield positive results.

“Maybe [police should] try working a night on the door to see what it is like?”

“[Police could] Help with [our] training. [They could teach us] to deal with aggressive patrons and help [us] out with extra courses that door staff may want to do.”

“[Police officers could] Observe a door course and understand the level of training, course content and limits of training [that] we as door supervisors have.”

“Police should be invited to training nights that I organise with my door team. [That would] build a better relationship. They should have input on how we deal with [the] different situations and scenarios that we have to deal with throughout the working night”

The Data

Before we continue any further, the organisers of this study wish to sincerely thank all respondents for their time, effort, opinions and expertise. Even the answers that were not applicable were still appreciated. If you contributed in any way to the study, thank you very much.

The study organisers are confident in the veracity of the answers given. The questions were posted to websites and social media accounts specifically aimed at and used by door supervisors and security staff.

A healthy number of door supervisors asked believed that they had a good relationship with police overall. This is encouraging, as it demonstrates that both parties understand the need for such cooperation and partnership and are willing to work towards it.

At the same time, the survey results do seem to suggest that door supervisors and security staff feel misunderstood by police. Broadly speaking, the general consensus among respondents would appear to be that the police neither fully appreciate, not completely understand the job they do or the challenges it presents.

A cause for concern related to this finding is the repeated assertion that some police view door supervisors as ‘thuggish’. This is a difficult point to validate or quantify. There are no specific instances mentioned during the study whereby a police officer has referred to (or even implied) that a door supervisor was a ‘thug’ (or any similar term). However, such instances must have taken place (or at least some instance that left the door supervisor with the impression that the police officers did not respect them). This may also be reflected in the arrest data featured earlier. As such, it is an important point that warrants careful consideration and possibly further study.

According to the study, door supervisors in the UK do not feel that their relationship with local police is as healthy as it perhaps could be.

This is not to say that the relationship between the aforementioned parties is considered to be bad, or even especially unhealthy, just that there is visible room for improvement.

Many such improvements were suggested over the course of the study. Among these suggestions was an increase in the frequency of patrols, as well as verbal communication (e.g. police officers introducing themselves, asking how the night is going and making more of an effort to understand the pressures faced by security staff).

Respondents complained that police don’t do enough to actively build a relationship with them. However, they are sympathetic towards the current plight of UK police, whom they appreciate are suffering from a decade of consistent budgetary cuts.

The general consensus, however, appears to be that an increase in communication on the part of the police would lead to a stronger and more fruitful working relationship.

Interestingly, there was a strong trend suggesting that security staff did not believe that a police presence acted as a major deterrent to troublemakers. Some respondents even went as far as to state that a police presence had no effect whatsoever, positive or negative on the behaviour of their patrons.

In terms of improving the relationship between door supervisors and police, a number of interesting suggestions were put forward by the survey. Not all of these suggestions were practical, especially when one considers how thinly stretched the current police force is. 

However, some ideas, such as police offering advice or even training to door supervisors could actually be very useful to the night time economy as a whole.

Some respondents clearly felt that the police were actively working against them. This is a bad sign, but arguably speaks more to a lack of communication than any formal hostility. Again, this assertion is hard to quantify without specific examples, though some of the statistical data featured above may shed some light on the origins of this idea.

On the whole, most respondents seemed to desire a closer working relationship with their local police. This is an encouraging sign, although it also highlights the need for more work to be done in this area.

In Conclusion

This survey captures a snapshot of the working night time economy, in terms of policing, we have a greater intellectual understanding of antisocial behaviour (together with its various causes) and greater technological assistance. However, these innovations exist at a time when police are severely hamstrung by a chronic lack of funding.

In terms of working in the field of security, we are seeing a positive improvement of the profession. For many years, licenses were revoked in considerable numbers. Presumably due to higher standards being employed across the industry, that number is shrinking. One can surmise from this that the standard of door supervisor training is as high, possibly higher, than it has ever been. Though problems inevitably exist, we are looking at a truly vital part of the night time economy, which is not only operating well, but also very possibly improving. However, this industry is also finding itself greatly hindered by cuts to police funding.

The relationship between police and door supervisors must be a symbiotic one, poor funding to one appears to be negatively affecting the performance of another. These circumstances could only exist if the two professions were entwined to a greater or lesser degree.

The data gathered in this survey offers striking testimony against the government’s apparent confidence in their strategy of budget cuts to the police.

We’ve also seen that a majority of door supervisors are very willing to cultivate a better working relationship with local police, as well as what appears to be a healthy reciprocal interest on the part of various constabularies.

However, these intentions and efforts are being thwarted by things like irregular patrol patterns, police numbers being drastically reduced and the inconsistency represented by different officers working unfamiliar areas and at differing times. 

Another key obstacle blocking the path to a more harmonious relationship is poor communication. This issue is clearly outlined in the survey data, where respondents specifically ask the police to communicate with them, but also discuss feeling misunderstood by them, a related issue that arises primarily from poor communication.

We also learned that Britain’s door supervisors do not, on the whole, feel respected by law enforcement. Many security staff feel ignored, patronised or at risk of arrest by the police with whom they interact. Once again, this points to communication as a key problem. 

In many cases, door supervisors and other security personnel are facing situations and threats similar to those faced by police, but are doing so without the myriad advantages that police have. If they also feel disrespected or mistrusted by police when these situations occur, this can become an unhealthy, even dangerous, situation.

Due to this lack of proper communication, door supervisors, for the most part, also do not feel fully understood by police. The relationship between the two groups, is far from perfect. It is, however, a relationship that still gets results.

Door supervisors appear to like being ‘backed up’ by police, but it is possible that police do not fully appreciate the benefits that door supervisors are capable of offering to them. Were the standard of communication better, one suspects that this could be easily explained and better understood.

On the whole, the relationship would seem to be generally amicable, even at times friendly and cooperative, but it is also somewhat strained.

Both security staff and police officers appear to be willing to work together towards the common goal of keeping people out at night safe.

Both door supervisors and police emerge from the survey as hard working and dedicated, with each profession misunderstood by the other to a certain degree. Both are important and both are currently operating under less than desirable circumstances due to situations largely beyond their control.

As ever, we’ve seen that security is an industry dedicated to a philosophy of constant improvement, which, when paired with British law enforcement, will hopefully mean good things for the future.