BUSHWICK — At the front of his classroom that doubles as a storefront church, a 6-foot 6-inch, 210-pound man with dreadlocks warned his students to use "brains" over "brute."
"We are not training you to be bouncers, we're training you to be security professionals," said the teacher Sharriff Geter, 50, who has been in the vocation since he was 16. "Some security guards still feel being dressed in all black wearing gloves is security. That's not security."
Geter and his wife Ana da Gama — who met while he was a guard at the renowned nightclub Cielo and she was the cashier — operate their 3-year-old school S & S Security Training in hopes of raising the bar for the vital profession. Whether handling rowdy clients, leading fire evacuations, or even fielding bomb threat calls, security guards have tougher jobs than most people know, the couple said — so it's crucial they enter the role prepared.
"Everybody's suing everybody if guards these days when guards aren't properly trained," Geter said, noting that New York State's 1992 Security Guard Act requires guards be trained, but that many still enter the field without a license. "A bouncer signifies intimidation and harm, but a real security professional realizes the different types of force that can be used in different situations."
But Geter, a naturally captivating teacher and powerful security presence, admitted that when he started in the field he relied on his size and strength above all else.
"I'd either be in jail or I'd have a lawsuit," recalled Geter, whose most "intense" job was at Chelsea's former hip hop club Tunnel where drugs and violence were commonplace. "Back then you went on a gut feeling, you grabbed a person and threw them out if they were intoxicated, and you didn't think about their wellbeing."
But as Geter learned more about the field's legalities and then married da Gama (whose experience in administration and production work transferred well to run the school, she said), he realized his calling.
"It's beautiful. I'ts a life lifting experience, to be able to help people be well-prepared in the workforce," said Geter, a Bronx native.
And da Gama, who said New York is rife with security training scams (including one recent alleged scam of 15,000 people by the company 1st Security Preparation & Placement), noted that she and her husband run a certified program that now even accepts the city's Workforce 1 vouchers providing free classes for individuals on public assistance or on unemployment.
If students do not have vouchers, the three-day training for first-time guards is $120 at the school. Students then must pay for fingerprinting and for the application to become a guard, she said, adding that S & S Security also offers the required annual renewal training and other classes (which can be found on its website).
And even though the training is short, da Gama said the responsiblity for guards is monumental.
"I've always worked with security people since I've done production work, and they're among the top people," she said. "If something goes wrong you really need them."