Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Peril part of public-safety jobs

Security guard says violence could always rear its head

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Brian Buchan has seen a lot.

He served more than two decades in the military, doing tours in Rwanda and Kuwait.

And in 12 years in security jobs since, he's tried to subdue rowdies at concerts, a man who hit him with a piece of wood at a construction site and a man at a housing complex who answered the door armed with a 45-centimetre knife.

Buchan said working in security jobs can mean a range of experience and, while violence isn't routine, it can regularly rear its ugly head.

"Mainly, security is to protect people and property, that's what it's about.

"And try to protect yourself sometimes, too," said Buchan, who is the security manager at Assiniboia Downs, where's he's worked since 2010.

Statistics from the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba show 70 security guards have taken time off the job from 2006 to 2010 due to assaults or violence. That ranks them an unenviable fourth behind nurse's aides and orderlies, community and social service workers and registered nurses.

Buchan said he was hospitalized in 2008 after he went to a condominium construction site for a check -- and encountered a man who wasn't supposed to be there.

Buchan managed to handcuff the man, but didn't see his partner coming up behind him.

"I got hit with a two-by-four. It laid me out straight," said Buchan.

The man had hit Buchan's lower back with the plank, before both ran off -- one still wearing Buchan's handcuffs.

Jobs protecting public safety can mean paying a physical price, which is why security guards, police and correctional service officers all fall in the top 10 occupations of people who lose time from work due to assaults or violent acts. Police officers rank fifth when it comes to time off work, and correctional service officers are seventh.

Police regularly release information about assaults on police officers.

In one hair-raising case in May, a 39-year-old driver allegedly took off on Main Street while an officer held onto the car as it reached speeds of more than 50 kilometres per hour.

"That's just an example of some of the dangers... each and every day as officers go to work. They put their uniforms on and they try to do the best for our city and to protect our city," said Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Natalie Aitken.

"And there's often times where just through the course of their regular duties, they're coming into contact with individuals who have zero respect for law enforcement and often times are displaying that."

Aitken said she's been assaulted a "handful" of times in her 13 years on the job.

In 2003, Aitken was trying to take an HIV-positive woman into custody when she scratched Aitken's forearm. Aitken was pregnant at the time.

"It was awful, because it involved not just me but kind of my whole family," said Aitken.

Unlike police, security guards usually don't have handcuffs and aren't allowed batons or pepper spray. However, Buchan said he thinks all security guards should get experience with hand-to-hand combat, on top of the required 40 hours of training security guards must get to work in Manitoba. Last year, a man who wouldn't leave a downtown apartment attacked Buchan in a stairwell.

"I took a couple punches. He busted my glasses," he said, adding the man was high on drugs, which made it difficult to subdue him. "You're dealing with all types of people where you are put in harm's way, but you have to have means to protect yourself. If you don't have them, that's rough."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2011 B1

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