Lately there has been a lot of discussion in the security industry about the added value of having an executive protection program. Elements of efficiency and productivity improvement are regularly tied to metrics where we can show this added value. But perhaps we need to remember that one significant feature of a true executive security program is the ability to provide a filter for the executive, to create a firewall of sorts.
I don’t believe that anyone in the IT field would argue that a firewall isn’t absolutely essential to a comprehensive cyber security platform. After all, it provides a barrier from threats coming in to the network. Similarly, a comprehensive executive protection program should provide a wall. Acting in unison with the Executive Assistant, the executive protection professional recognizes which meetings on the principle’s calendar may occur with persons not well known. Our mission, as executive protection professionals, is to prevent harm which includes damage to an individual’s reputation and brand. Certainly, with meetings set up at the last minute, this can be difficult, however with the appropriate support, the protection program can provide just-in-time intelligence to inform the principle of who they are meeting with.
As I look at the security industry globally, not only do I see different approaches to how close protection and crisis response are addressed, I also see distinct approaches between operators and intelligence professionals when providing protection. Traditional operators may emphasize planning and layering of protective elements to accomplish their objective. Yet, their peers from the intelligence community may attribute greater value in intelligence and may prefer to use information (or misinformation) to their advantage.
For the larger executive security companies, the behind-the-scenes Global Security Operations Center (GSOC) can provide this real-time intelligence support. For the solo operator, they need to be savvy when it comes to internet research and investigations. Providing the principle with briefings on persons of interest equips him/her with the intelligence they need to have the upper hand. It also allows them to decide if someone presents a risk to their character.
We have seen this scenario repeat itself time and again in global business. A politician meets with a potential donor only to find out they have a tattered history, or an executive travels internationally to join a meeting and they intrude upon local customs without intending to. These incidents and many others have humiliated world and business leaders alike. In some cases, they resulted in resignations or loss of shareholder value. There is a myriad of reasons why someone would want access to your principle, such as:
- Legitimate business purposes
- Attention seeking behavior
- Psychopathic behavior without violent intentions
- Fraudulent or criminal interests
- Obsessive addictive disorder
- And more
While the principle is going to meet with who they want to meet with, it may prove very valuable for you to understand the individual’s intentions for gaining access to them. To get there we need to become better students of human behavior and understand the variables that drive people to approach a protected individual. Much of the research conducted to date focuses on persons that have committed or attempted to commit an act of violence against a protected person. Few studies have been conducted relative to abnormal approaches that do not include acts of violence but may lead to future unwanted and potentially violent behaviors. In “Approaching and Attacking Public Figures: A Contemporary Analysis of Communications and Behavior”, Dr. Reid Meloy points out that pathological fixations can become dangerous. He further explains that they may result in “deterioration of the subject’s intimate, social and occupational life”. This study also noted the significance of “multiple communications and/or contacts with other targets”. Through your efforts, as a personal protection specialist, to “filter” abnormal approaches, these persons may become evident. Existence of unusual pursuits with other high-profile people may become evident along with signs of a pathological fixation.
As security professionals, we must evolve beyond the classic bodyguard image and deploy best-in-class protection for our principles. While many areas of evolution are essential to elevate the practice, we shouldn’t forget about the basics that make us protection specialists.
Chuck Tobin is the Founder and President of AT-RISK International, a leading provider of close protection services. He has more than 29 years of experience serving political leaders, executives and corporations in a variety of global environments which have contributed to his long-standing expertise in personal protection services. He also serves as the President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP).