BII certificate for doorstaff first step in regulating industry

Related tags Door supervisor Crime

Mention doorstaff and more than likely someone will come up with a wisecrack about their size or attitude.A recent article in women's magazine...

Mention doorstaff and more than likely someone will come up with a wisecrack about their size or attitude.

A recent article in women's magazine Cosmopolitan even went so far as to suggest that in some areas the main qualification for a prospective door supervisor is a criminal record.

And a report from Durham University last month said doorstaff were left to handle large numbers of people late at night in cities with almost no police back-up.

While there is some truth in the image of doorstaff being aggressive and involved with drug-dealing and racketeering - a number of recent court cases are testament to this - the trade is taking huge strides to improve the situation.

The customer service revolution has given rise to a demand for a new breed of door supervisor, many of whom work in pubs today.

They come from all walks of life, they are a good mix of male and female, and they are there, primarily, to make sure customers enjoy themselves.

Local authorities and training organisations have begun to regulate the industry and weed out those who have given door supervisors such a bad name.

This is no easy task. The job has traditionally been cash-in-hand income for people who don't want to be vetted, could be moonlighting and who are often on the move a lot.

For them, regulation means fees, and with so many different authorities running schemes, a single door supervisor could end up forking out hundreds of pounds every time he moves to a new area.

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) thinks it has come up with a definitive, portable qualification that could end this confusion.

Police in the seaside resort of Bournemouth are bracing themselves for a further rise in the crime rate as a result of taking on this new BII initiative, the Door Supervisor's National Certificate. It's not that they expect more actual crimes to be committed - the scheme should, however, lead to a huge increase in reported incidents.

But rather than shrinking in horror from the spectre of this crime "epidemic", they seem proud of it because they view it as a reflection of the close partnership they now have with the town's registered doorstaff.

Front line

Superintendent Simon Martin, operations manager with Bournemouth Police, told a meeting of journalists earlier this month that he would predict a further rise before crime levels out and, hopefully, begins to drop.

"It is an opportunity to develop an empathy with these people who are at the front line, like the police," he said.

"I predict an initial upsurge in calls to the police as the doorstaff become aware of their powers but it is important that licensees don't feel that we are going to view that upsurge as reflecting on them."

In years gone by, licensees would have risked personal injury rather than calling in the police to a violent incident because, in many cases, police intervention would be cited in court as a reason to turn down a licence renewal or application.

Nowadays the situation is reversed.

Police officers view regular meetings with licensees and visits to their premises as a vital part of crime prevention. In fact, the week before The Publican Newspaper visited the town recently, police officers had worked alongside doorstaff for the evening at one of the resort's busier venues.

This not only gave the doorstaff more credibility among the customers, but acted as a deterrent to prospective drug-users and troublemakers. Police will be visiting other outlets in the town over the next few months.

Bournemouth has been vetting its doorstaff for almost 10 years now, with police checks for previous criminal convictions now routine, but the town has become the first in the country to combine this with compulsory training.

By the end of October, all door supervisors at premises with a public entertainment licence must have passed the initial exam for the first part of the BII certificate within six months of starting work.

The BII's qualifications manager, Cathie Smith, said: "The idea is to stop the criminal element in door supervision.

"We have had a hard time convincing the industry that this is something it wants and take-up has been slow, but we hope that as the qualification gets better known then local authorities will start taking on board the importance of training schemes."

There has, until recently, been uncertainty over the legality of doorstaff registration schemes, but a decision by Liverpool Crown Court, that the schemes are "not unlawful", could open the way for the Bournemouth example to be repeated all over the country.

The BII is currently in the process of visiting local authorities to explain the importance of the scheme.

The certificate is split in to two parts. The first involves a 45-minute multiple-choice exam on all aspects of the job, including knowledge of the law and emergency procedures.

A second module, which is still being trialled, teaches practical techniques including first aid, conflict management, restraint techniques and drugs awareness.

But perhaps the most important factor is attitude.

The course encourages doorstaff to concentrate on customer care, providing a safe environment for drinkers, rather than acting as the licensee's "hired gun".

The scheme was initially viewed with suspicion by doorstaff themselves, and given that 97 per cent of them pay their own training fees you can understand why.

But the Bournemouth scheme is now so popular that candidates from outside its reaches, in neighbouring towns, are applying for places at the colleges and training organisations that run the BII course.

David Wordley, from Bournemouth Borough Council, said: "We are getting enquiries from people who already have the certificate so the benefits of the portable system have already been proved."

So what do doorstaff themselves think about the new scheme?

Peter Boucher, managing director of the Door Supervisor Training Organisation, which is one of the organisations training doorstaff for the BII certificate, admits that his students can initially be a bit negative about the course.

But he claims that past students now regard it as invaluable.

He said: "Even the most stubborn was quiet until the very last lesson and then offered up some point from his personal experience which added to the discussion."

He is now urging licensees to send their doorstaff and themselves for training.

"Licensees seem a bit shy about getting involved in who works on their door. Even if it is staff from an agency, they should be offering comments about the standard of the candidate," he added.

One of Boucher's ex-students, Gary Hazel, who now works on the door at Bar Via, is a chef by day, and a door supervisor by night.

He says that as the scheme spreads, the industry is becoming more receptive to it.

"Some of the door supervisors were really negative when they first started it but now one or two have done it they're coming round.

"If you have been working on the door for years then you probably know most of the stuff already but the training gives you the knowledge to speak with authority."

He believes that attitudes to doorstaff will change once regulation becomes more widespread.

"What the media don't understand is that it's more likely we are going to be bottled than the customers. In somewhere like Southampton the customers are a lot more aggressive and perhaps that depends on their experience of doorstaff."

He says that a large part of his job is about preventing trouble before it starts.

Internal policing

Hazel added: "Basically, we are trying to protect the majority from the minority. A big part of it is internal policing. Everyone in there should see a member of doorstaff every few minutes."

There are already at least three authorities that are planning to embrace the BII training initiative as a standard in their area.

The govern

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