The assault witnessed by millions watching the 2022 Oscars raises questions beyond mass media’s coverage of the incident. As we emerge from a two-year lockdown filled with fear and anxiety, venues are opening, events are being scheduled and people are coming together in ways that might require relearning some social skills. The first time out, everyone is likely to be on their best behavior. But as we saw on Sunday, it doesn’t take much to tip people over the edge.
Violence at a special event is the number one concern of a security team. In this case, there was a single (very famous) perpetrator and the dynamics of the televised production may have played a part in the variance from standard event security protocols. Typically, for the principal in the spotlight, there is a 10 to 15-foot zone called the ‘lunge-able’ area that requires constant attention. When anyone enters this zone, security agents act to protect the principal. At the Oscars, this standard procedure was not followed.
Crowd control is another top concern for event security teams. When there is an act of violence at an event, one part of the security team carefully watches the perpetrator to see if the crowd is turning on them or is cohesive to their act. Perhaps because of the celebrity stature of this perpetrator, the different crowd reactions over a short period of time were out of sync with the norm. It’s hard to understand the psychology of a crowd that witnesses an assault one minute and gives the perpetrator a standing ovation a short time later.
The violence at the Oscars has prompted some rethinking about event security, especially for occasions with high-profile or famous attendees. Key takeaways are:
Overkill is underestimated. Security teams must be prepared for some unimaginable situations. Training, scenario planning and drills are keys to success.
Every event should have prohibited rules of conduct posted, which should be reinforced upon entry to the venue.
One security agent should always be present in the lunge-able area of the principal who is in the spotlight. This may change multiple times through the course of an event.
In the case of an assault: The victim should be examined immediately by medical staff on duty and witnesses should be interviewed prior to leaving.
Don’t underestimate the crowd—especially when regular people are mixed with celebrities. That is a very unpredictable situation. In those cases, rules might be enforced differently.