Tuesday, February 28th, 2006:
Bouncers in Helsingborg
It kinda freaked me out, the first time I went to a bar on a Friday night here. There are these guys with yellow sweatshirts (or jackets/vests in colder weather) standing at the door, deciding whether or not you deserve entry. And some of them have official-looking badges; almost like the ones coppers wear. These are the bouncers in Sweden.
I had a chat with a guy in a pub recently about this. Let's call him Johan (because that's his name). He's a part-time bouncer at a pub somewhere in deepest darkest Helsingborg. I asked him what the idea behind this uniform is. I mean, what's the story with the Fascist-state badge anyway? My beer-fuelled enquiring mind wanted to know. (I think it's only fair to point out that he was off-duty at the time of questioning, and that I was feeding him alcohol, poor guy.)
Johan explained that there are two kinds of bouncer-guys who wear the yellow tops. One has the badge, and the other doesn't. Apparently, the guy with the badge has to have seventy hours' worth of police training, specifically designed for this kind of work. Johan says that this training covers a variety of subjects, including:
- Self-defence and restraining techniques
(My interpretation: Getting your mate to sneak up behind the potential assailant, grab his arm, and bend it behind his back - while you casually and oh-so-coolly slide your shades on, get your 'cuffs out, and snap 'em on - all in one impressively smooth motion. Magic. It's like CSI Helsingborg, or something)
- Detecting drug abuse
(I read: If he's got red eyes, he's been on smack and ecstasy since birth. Ban him immediately, and forever.)
- Psychology; the art of speaking to, and reasoning with, drunk people
(Hhhmm. More like: Having a few pints before work; getting on the "same wave-length". (Actually that's not fair, most of the Swedish bouncers I've met have been totally sober while at work. But most have still behaved worse than drunken arses anyway.))
After this rigorous training, these beefy chaps not only have the power to frisk people at will ("ladies, this way, please"), but they may also detain, and even "apprehend" people; basically arrest them until the so-called "real" police arrive. I put the word "real" in quotation marks because I challenge the Swedish police's competence (that is, until the Swedish government does something about this blog, and sends some cops round to have some stern words and meatballs with me (this combination's quite popular here, according to Swedish cinema - but that's another blog entry.)).
Anyway, these bouncers also have certain "obligations":
Keep a look-out:
- They must intervene when they see a crime taking place.
These happy bouncing people must detain non-bouncing club-going people when the latter are suspected of possessing drugs (a word of advice to my American and British readers: Keep your flu remedies at the hotel, if you're a visitor).
This crime-watch rule only only applies when crimes take place within the bouncers' jurisdiction, and when the safety of the pub might be jeopordised, i.e. when it's on their territory (around, and close to the pub). Sad bastards. We'll just skin up elsewhere.
The badge-guys must also see when things are getting rough in the pubs they're hired to protect.
That's where the blokes without the badges come in...
About the blokes without the badges
Swedish law dictates, according to...what was his name? Oh yes, Johan (it's great, I can blame everything on him), Johan says that the guys with the badges are supose to step in and take control of a drunken, or drug-fuelled situation. But this is not the case. Nope, not at all.
You'll find that if there's any trouble whatsoever, it'll be the non-badge-wearing guy who's sorting everything out. He's the man. Officially, he's not allowed to do anything at all, but in reality (in Helsingborg anyway), he'll be the guy dishing out that particular pub's (or nightclub's) brand of abuse. Could just be a talking-to, could be a shove, could be a kick.
Helsingborg is a nice city, but there's a lot of unnecessary knocking about of people in pubs & clubs here (by bouncers without badges), and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.