Executive Protection Officers and the Art of Security
It’s a dangerous world we live in these days. We live in a world of threat: Threats to companies, corporations, personalities, individuals and their families or a country, religion or race. With the world on show in the media more than ever, people who are in the spotlight can hardly make a move without attracting attention and some of that attention does not have the best of intention.
That is why the demand for the executive protection officers and specialized security services they can provide has continued to grow over the last few decades.
When many people hear the term executive protection officer, they immediately associate that with being a fancy term for the word “bodyguard.” Although guarding a person against imminent and sudden threats is a part of what an executive protection officer does, there is much more involved with this service than just that. (We’ve also made aninfographic that explains everything at a glance.)
While an important and necessary role, the job of being a bodyguard is generally considered to be more reactive than that of an executive protection officer.
Bodyguards stay close to their Principle at all times, similar to an EP (executive protection) agent, their primary functions being to shield their clients from attack, fending off threats or annoyances to them – often the press – and ensure that they get from A to B safely.
Executive protection officers take a more proactive and analytical role to keep their clients out of harm’s way and utilize in-depth planning, preparation and advance work to cover all aspects of a trip, identify any risks and establish plans to mitigate them. This type of approach is designed to lessen the chances that a Principle will be exposed or that an executive protection officer will need to physically protect the Principle, even though they can expertly handle the situation should it arise.
Are Executive Protection Officers the Same as the Secret Service?
The United States Secret Service protects the US President in a similar manner to an executive protection service protecting their clients. They may have fewer resources, but the methodology remains the same. Many people see Secret Service agents as vigilant individuals that would throw their life on the line to keep the US President safe at all costs, but they generally hope this will not be needed and rely on the proactive approach to assist with this.
Be it the Secret Service, an in-house corporate security team or a contracted security company the process should be the same. The first task is to review the trip itinerary and conduct a real-world risk assessment, covering all locations and events, as well as taking the profile of the person traveling into account.
Based on this a carefully planned operation will be set up that incorporates secure transport, efficient and alternate routing options, “safe” locations and suitable personnel. The key goal is to prevent a situation arising in the first place rather than having to cope with it once it has.
This careful planning is the exact approach that executive protection services take when they are keeping a client safe. Simply put, executive protection services are trained to use a much more well-rounded and proactive approach to keeping their clients safe than do other types of more reactive personal protection services.
How Do Executive Protection Officers Protect Their Clients?
For a team to be successful in protecting an individual who is traveling on a busy and demanding schedule, the service must be fluid, adaptable and conducted by individuals with specific training. Executive Protection officers have the skill set and ability to focus on and operate with constantly changing threat profiles and locations.
Some of the techniques that executive protection services use to keep their clients safe include the following:
Threat, Risk Assessment
Even before the client has left his home base, the security team will carefully analyze the trip itinerary, the location profiles and events to be attended. Then establish a baseline risk and put in place a suitable security operation that will mitigate all relevant, real-world dangers. Threats to be considered will include kidnap, petty crime, persons of interest, embarrassing situations as well as the risks of medical emergencies or natural disasters.
A detailed understanding of the threats against your client is paramount. In addition to this, local or firsthand knowledge of a location is essential in order to be able to operate smoothly and more efficiently in all circumstances.
Advance operations allow the executive protection team the opportunity to practice all routes to be used. Giving them a chance to identify the primary and secondary drop off and pick up points, to walk through all access and egress points and establish plans for each contingency in advance rather than having to make it up on the spot in the heat of an emergency.
Arrange Secure and Vetted Transportation
Safe transportation from point A to point B is a must and executive protection services are excellent at providing it. The only time that a Principle is more vulnerable than when they are on the move is when they are exiting and entering a building. High quality, reliable vehicles with trained drivers are an essential rather than a preferable.
The security team must ensure that all vehicles are fit for purpose, fully functional, completely road legal, fully gassed and with suitable equipment such as spare tires, bulbs, and emergency equipment. The drivers must also be fully licensed, permitted and insured for such operations and preferably background checked.
Specialists in Unarmed Client Protection
Many cities, states, and countries do not allow personal security team members to be armed in any form. Thus even nonlethal weapons such as extendable batons, mace sprays, and stun guns are illegal. As such executive protection officers must be highly trained to protect their clients, even when unarmed. To disobey the law in this matter can result in embarrassment, delay, and inconvenience for the client as well as a potential loss of operational licenses for the agent and even jail time.
An executive protection agent must ensure that the client is made aware of the local rules regarding weapons and if the team will be carrying any.
Use Cultural Intelligence to Mitigate Risks
Cultural differences account for a significant number of threats against a client or their family’s personal safety. Executive protection officers are experts at making themselves aware of local religious, ethnic, monetary and other differences that could potentially put their clients at risk. A key to gaining this information is local knowledge and maintaining a good understanding of current affairs within the area of operation.
Although the first order of business for any executive protection officer is to be professional and keep a low profile when escorting their VIP hosts, a significant presence is sometimes needed. This is usually done as discreetly as possible with a focus towards targeting an individual identified as a potential threat or more overtly should there be multiple persons considered a threat.
Whether a client is traveling in a vehicle or attending an event at a venue, there is always the chance that trouble may arise. Trouble may be in many forms; Executive Protection officers will always have established contingency plans for their client to egress should a situation escalate to the point where extraction is required.
It must be remembered that the role of an executive protection agent is to protect the Principle, not engage or apprehend the offenders. Should engagement be the only way to protect the Principle successfully, then it must be done in such a manner as to not increase the threat.
The World is not as Safe as it Seems
The biggest mistake that most people make with their personal safety is to allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security. Certainly, modern day police forces are improving all the time, but a lot can happen in the 5 – 15 minutes. That is the average response time to an emergency call. Individuals must be proactive for the safety of themselves and their family members.
The harsh reality is that threats are out there in many shapes and forms. Those threats might be targeted towards an individual, the group or company the person is representing, or that he or she might merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Consider the terrible acts that have occurred in France in the last year: innocent people going about their lives have become victims of international terrorism. What could an unarmed executive protection agent be able to do in such circumstances is debatable, but wouldn’t you rather be with an experienced, trained and cool headed individual whose primary goal is your well-being and who already has an emergency plan in place.
It should be less about “that will never happen to me” and more about “that could happen to me, and I need to do something about it”.