Bouncers go to charm school

PAUL BROOKS weighs 17 stone and does not like to be described as a bouncer. He prefers 'door supervisor'. 'We aren't thugs beating people up, or at least most of us aren't - we are decent lads,' he says.

The police in Newcastle upon Tyne hope that soon all bouncers in the city will be like Paul - diplomatic and articulate, gentle guardians of the booming nightclub and pub scene.

Their vision of a 250-strong team of besuited men upholding the law rather than breaking it is based on a new training scheme. From this month, public entertainment licences for clubs and pubs in the city will be granted only to establishments whose bouncers have passed the Doorman Registration Scheme. This includes sections on the 'art of conversation', racial awareness, self-defence, and first aid. Organised by Northumbria police and Newcastle city council, it was introduced two months ago because of the growing number of crimes allegedly involving bouncers.

The police discovered that drug dealers and organised criminals were using bouncers to infiltrate clubs and pubs, where they were selling drugs and being used in protection rackets. Last year, 78 bouncers were arrested for alleged crimes involving violence and drugs. This year's total so far is fewer than 10.

Superintendent Peter Durham, the scheme's designer and supervisor, said: 'The doorman business is no longer just about hired muscle. There're some bright lads among them. It's the art of conversation that some of them lack. We introduce the psychology of talking people down from violent and confrontational situations. The bad old image of bouncers is, we hope, a thing of the past.'

About 250 men have applied to the scheme. So far about 60 have taken the four-night course. All passed the exam. Ten applicants were rejected because of their criminal records. Subjects include sex discrimination, race relations, drug identification, self-defence and fire prevention. 'The self-defence shows the doormen how to use proper restraint holds rather than just nutting someone and kicking them between the legs,' said Supt Durham.

Bouncers earn about pounds 30 a night. Those who pass the examination get an identification card with a number and photograph. Any who commit a crime while on duty are automatically barred from working in Newcastle.

Stephen Savage, an assistant principal officer at the council's licensing department, said: 'If you have an untrained and very big man faced with a violent situation he will act violently. But you train him to disarm peacefully and then you are doing everyone a favour.'

Police hope the scheme will also help reduce the growing number of violent assaults in the city involving the public. This reached a record high of 498 last year. The attacks are linked to the huge number of drinkers attracted to Newcastle. On Friday and Saturday nights there can often be more than 100,000 people in the 147 pubs, nine clubs and 116 licensed restaurants.

(Photograph omitted)