What Is The Difference Between Different Type Of Security Jobs?
I’ve worked in the security industry for most of my adult life, and I’ve spent countless hours on protective detail for government dignitaries, nobility, religious figures, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs. I’ve also spent a lot of time supporting executive protection tasks as part of protective intelligence teams.
I’ve worked with a wide range of residential security services London specialists over the years. Although many of them were extremely accomplished professionals, others were poorly trained and unprofessional.
My experience isn’t unusual; everyone who has worked in executive protection for any length of time has seen both sides.
I’d like to spend some time looking at the features that distinguish executive protection specialists from goons, and why people seeking protection should avoid the latter.
The well-documented story that Trump supporter Roger Stone was shielded by members of the Oath Keepers militia organization while staying in D.C. on January 5th and 6th was one of the curiosities that came from the inquiry into the January 6th assault on the US Capitol.
Some of Stone’s bodyguards from the Oath Keepers were later observed participating in the assault on the Capitol and have been charged criminally.
It’s unclear whether Stone was aware that his bodyguards were plotting to invade the Capitol, but the sequence of events suggests that Stone hired dubious personnel to provide him with close protection.
He is not by himself.
Many celebrities and politicians have hired questionable bodyguards, such as members of notorious motorcycle gangs or gang members, with disastrous results. The murder of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Free Concert and the 2018 Brooklyn rapper Tekashi69 incident outside a New York eatery are two of the more egregious examples.
The Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club was recruited by the Rolling Stones’ road manager to provide security during the Altamont Speedway music event in 1969. Violent altercations between the Hell’s Angels and the crowd eventually devolved into a Hell’s Angel member stabbing Hunter to death in what could only be described as security.
The establishment had stopped Tekashi69’s bodyguard, who was purportedly a member of the Nine Trey Blood street gang, from accompanying him in. The bodyguard replied by bashing a bouncer in the head with a chair, prompting the bouncer to shoot him.
Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that all you need for a bodyguard is a massive man who knows how to use his fists and a rifle. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Effective executive protection is more on the cerebral strengths of the agents or teams engaged and their ability to prepare for, plan for, and avoid threats than it is about physical prowess.
The mental aspects of protection are what distinguish executive protection experts from “bodyguards,” who are often nothing more than armed thugs.
First and foremost, let me state that I am not a pacifist. Both armed and unarmed fighting training is required of professional protection agents. However, these abilities should only be used as a last resort in the most dire of circumstances.
Force—or the threat of force—should not be employed indiscriminately or as the first line of defense in every situation. I’d even go so far as to suggest that if an executive protection agent has to use force, they’ve failed their fundamental purpose, which is to avoid such confrontations.
A protection agent should never have to fight their way out of a difficult position in the first place. Rather, they should notice a potential issue early enough to entirely avert it.
Action is always faster than response, and while thorough training can help close the gap, for security professionals, a proactive strategy is always better to a reactive one. It’s hard to stop fists or bullets from flying once they start flying, and even if you “win” a physical fight, there will almost always be major reputational and legal consequences.
The incident in Washington, D.C. in May 2017, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s protection crew assaulted a gathering of journalists and demonstrators assembled outside an event Erdogan attended at the Brookings Institution, is a clear example of this.
While the protection team “won” the fight, they lost both in the press and in the court of public opinion, and the affair became an international embarrassment for Turkey’s leadership.
While negative publicity surrounding a security issue can help a rapper like Tekashi69 gain a “gangster” reputation, it does little to help the image of most celebrities and corporate executives.
Such publicity can damage a person’s or company’s brand and reputation, as well as result in expensive lawsuits. It is thus always preferable to avoid a confrontation if at all feasible, emphasizing the value of proactive tools and talents.
Proactive Skills and Tools
Executive protection experts’ most significant proactive talents are primarily mental in nature. They include a high level of situational awareness, meticulous logistics planning, extensive security and threat assessments, meticulous trip and individual site security advances, detailed contingency planning, liaisons with counterparts, and stringent operational security.
Protective intelligence teams can be used by executive protection teams to investigate and assess threats, as well as look for hostile monitoring and other signals of attack planning.
Verbal abilities, as well as the capacity to deescalate and defuse a hostile situation, are essential.
Unfortunately, inexperienced bodyguards are frequently unaware of or reject these mental aspects of executive protection. They believe that force, or the prospect of force, is the best response to every threat.
Protection personnel will always have to operate on the reaction side of the equation as a result of this overreliance on physical force, which is a dangerous place to be if an attacker has been given full license to assess security measures and organize an attack.
The presence of security personnel—even if they are armed—is simply not enough to protect a target from a determined hostile actor, as we’ve seen in numerous occasions.
Physical security measures like armored trucks are no exception. If attackers are given free reign to perform surveillance on a target, they will be able to detect security flaws and devise ways to exploit them.
Once an assault is initiated, even highly trained security employees who have been schooled in spotting and responding to attacks are at a disadvantage.
Assailants have had time to factor security measures into their assault strategy and discover means to circumvent them, in addition to having the element of tactical surprise on their side. As a result, they may frequently bring enough individuals and the necessary weaponry to circumvent security procedures.
The attack on Mexico City’s Secretary of Public Security, Omar Garca Harfuch, in June 2020 exemplified this principle.
A strong attack force armed with heavy weapons, including.50 caliber rifles, ambushed the armored vehicle conveying Garca Harfuch.
The attackers have an immediate edge over the defenders once an attack begins. The protection detail must establish the source, location, and direction of the attack, the number of assailants and their weapons, and the best way to reply and escape from the kill zone as they react.
The defenders may freeze and be unable to reply if they are not mentally prepared.
In the instance of Garca Harfuch, his security team appears to have been killed in the initial exchange of gunfire, while the vehicle stayed motionless in the attack zone.
While Garca Harfuch was severely injured, he was able to escape the attack solely because his assailants stopped attacking and fled the scene—not because of any security measures.
This instance highlights the necessity of employing proactive measures to detect and avert threats rather than depending solely on force to protect the principal.
Everything You Need
Because of this, people who want executive protection should be extremely picky about who they hire.
Aside from seeking for applicants with extensive law enforcement or corporate executive security expertise, wise people should look for candidates who exhibit maturity, sound judgment, psychological stability, intelligence, and well-developed social skills.
While these standards will significantly reduce the pool of applicants available, the advantages of having a high-performing executive protection agent much outweigh the time and effort required to recruit one.