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Deaths Put Spotlight on Bouncers

Law: Bar patrons who died after confrontations with security staff point out need for training regulations, officials say.

April 07, 2002|LIZ SIDOTI | ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A dispute, large amounts of booze and nightclub bouncers proved to be a deadly combination for Vincent Darling.

The 41-year-old Army veteran died shortly after he was struck in the neck during a scuffle with security personnel at a restaurant. The coroner, who noted that Darling was severely intoxicated, ruled the December death a homicide. No charges have been filed.

Similar deaths have prompted lawmakers in some states, including Ohio and Iowa, to introduce legislation that would encourage businesses to teach bouncers how to do their jobs peacefully.

"Training these people about how to handle confrontations without resorting to violence can save lives," said Robert Smith, a San Diego police officer and nightclub security consultant. "Their job is no different than a police officer, so why aren't they given some of the same tools?"

Most states don't require or even recommend that bar and restaurant security personnel--bouncers or doormen--undergo any training, even though they work where alcohol is served and there is potential for confrontation.

Iowa enacted a law in 2000 that allows cities to require bouncer training in mediation techniques and physical restraint methods as a condition for obtaining a liquor license.

The law was enacted after Charles Lovelady, 26, died in a confrontation with two bouncers at a Des Moines nightclub. The bouncers were acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.

Des Moines, as well as other Iowa cities, require bouncers to spend four hours in training.

"No one should die in these situations," said Iowa Rep. Charles Larson, who supported the provision.

Last year in Rhode Island, legislation regulating clubs was introduced in both House and Senate, but it died when the session ended. The measure would have required clubs to provide private security from certified companies.

Bouncers in Alaska must receive the same training as those who serve alcohol. Bill Roche, chief enforcement officer of Alaska's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said part of the training covers how to control unruly customers and spot intoxicated people, false identification or underage drinkers.

Oregon requires anyone working security anywhere receive some basic training from the public safety department, but it is unknown how many people have been trained, said Randy Silva, program coordinator for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Ohio Sen. David Goodman is sponsoring the bill that would recommend training for bouncers and doormen, after originally proposing that training be required.

"I'm trying to give these people the opportunity to get this kind of training without being overly intrusive to small businesses," he said.

Phil Craig, executive director of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Assn., supports Goodman's bill.

Under the measure, businesses would be encouraged to train bouncers because the Ohio Liquor Control Commission would take that training into consideration when calculating any citation fines against such establishments.

"Bouncers are there to protect not only the property they are employed with, but . . . the patrons they're selling the liquor to," said Keith Carr, an attorney for Darling's family. "This wouldn't have happened had the bouncer been trained."

No charges have been filed against any bouncers or the Dallas-based restaurant chain, Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill, which declined to comment. Police plan to give the case to prosecutors.

Sean Croce, owner of Doc Rickett's Lab in Monterey, hired Smith, the security consultant, for about $1,000 to spend six hours teaching the staff of 30 how to recognize potential problems.

"There is no price tag you can put on what can be taught to people," Croce said.

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