What it takes to be a skilled Close Protection Operative in the Private Security Industry.
BTEC Level 3 certificate for Working as a Close Protection Operative in the Private Security Industry (QCF).
On the way to an evening party at a top notch city hotel my companion and I encounter a strange and off-putting man coming towards us from a dark door edging closer, and closer.There's something disconcerting about him though chances are he's harmless, but what if he's not? What if he's a mugger who has bad intentions?
Now, let’s raise the stakes a little: Imagine I'm the CEO of a large company that has recently made redundant thousands of workers and, unbeknownst to me, this man was among those laid off. He's frustrated and angry.
He's somehow got his hands on a copy of my daily schedule and he knows that I'm due to make an appearance at this party. He has used this dark alley as a vantage point to get close and he's about to impose himself on my life in some way. Maybe it's just a loud verbal tirade in my face or maybe it's something much worse.
Situations like this do happen and is why executives and many well-off individuals hire protection specialists like our man, who just happens to be walking discreetly just a few feet ahead of us remarkably inconspicuous, given that he's a 240-pound, extremely muscular guy in a suit.
Then again our man could well be a woman of slighter build, but she will be just as capable should anything go awry, to instantly close in and with little fuss and extreme efficiency separate us from this weird fellow, spiriting us away to safety.
Our people are trained in the nuanced art of providing “close protection” for CEOs, royalty, dignitaries and the wealthy. In a previous life they may have been military personnel, who were deployed to locations we often like to call hostile territories, but this is a whole new theatre of operations and requires more than soldiering skills; it requires civilian skills too.
A real specialist will tell you that the four attributes that form the core of our being is tenacity, integrity, zeal and the willingness to sacrifice. I don’t necessarily mean your life, though it might come to that, so believe me when I tell you that it is these attributes that define our character. You either have them or you don’t. On top of character to be relevant in this profession, you also need to be well trained and I don’t mean to be blindly obedient like a dog, rather that you develop these five core values.
Sacred Mindset - Understand the proactive mechanisms of protection being the first step and seeking to understand why and how these mechanisms will connect, is striving towards perfection.
Knowledge – You will need a firmly rooted culmination and understanding of the skills a protection specialist will gain through learning, practice and experience.
Process - The disciplined logic of “one brick atop another” and the appropriate value of their respective weights.
Vigilance – Be never tired, never weary, always looking and ready for the fell clutch of circumstance.
Wisdom - A protection specialist’s ability to progress through unexpected formularies by applying intentions that come faster with each new step.
the Storyline continues…..
As this is a mock security detail we will first, discuss what sort of threat scenario I have in mind as different threats call for different models of protection. A group of high-profile executives traveling to a dicey region in Africa might require armoured cars and a dozen men toting assault rifles.
A controversial television personality addressing a crowd of fans in city might need the company of only one or two unarmed (albeit hefty) individuals to deter any disgruntled viewers from tossing an egg in the face.
Let’s agree, for the purposes of this exercise, that I am a business executive traveling to the heart of the city for a public event. Perhaps my company and I have recently been blamed for an environmental disaster, with activist groups condemning me personally for the tragedy.
There's no specific threat against me—no anonymous letter threatening acts of violence—but it seems quite possible that some radical activists might want to confront me, embarrass me or even harm me. You might imagine the job is simply to stand by my side, look intimidating and intervene if anyone accosts me, but you’d be dead wrong!
Real protection is about risk analysis and careful planning. It's about transforming what a mugger would call an “easy mark" (a target that is unaware of his surroundings and the inherent risks of the subway etc.) into someone who is "street smart" and minimizes exposure to risk.
To be blunt, when we say that someone is “street smart” we mean someone who knows all the current shit going on in the streets, the ghettos and everywhere else. Someone who knows how to make the right decisions, knows how to deal with different situations and has an independent state of mind.
You, not the bad guys, should be dictating the course of events, so let’s start planning.
Back to our mock security detail; the BG walks me through his advance work. He checks my itinerary—including a lunch meeting, a visit to a museum and the evening event—and plots it out on a map, noting the choke points along the driving routes where my hired car will be most vulnerable to an ambush.
This is otherwise what we will call a briefing. He knows the ins and outs of the local private airports having considered the best escape routes, in case we're forced to evade an attack. He has memorised the precise locations of key hospital facilities and the quickest way to reach them, in the event that emergency medical treatment becomes necessary.
Zeroing in on the specific venues listed on my schedule, the BG will then get down to the crucial nitty-gritty of preparation. He will have paid an advance visit to every spot, going over each with a fine-tooth comb. (A Principal is most vulnerable during transitions — walking between a car and a building entrance, or vice versa — as the assailant needn't overcome the extra obstacles provided by an armoured vehicle or a building's control and security systems.)
The BG will carefully assesses the "apron"— the area between the sidewalk curb and a building's front door— to choreograph how he can get me in and out smoothly. He will have even checked the curb height to ensure the car door will clear it, avoiding a snag that could slow us down. He might have decided to have the car drop me off at one entrance and then pick me up at a different exit, to be less predictable.
At the restaurant where I'll be having my lunch meeting, the BG if he is smart will have strolled in during a quiet afternoon shift and taken the measure of the place. He will have decided where he'd prefer I sit at a table far from the kitchen door, with my flank protected by a wall.
He will also have looked at where to take up a position near the bar perhaps, where he can stand sipping water (hydration is important) and from where he can keep an eye on me while also clocking the front and rear entrances. He will have decided whether it would be prudent to approach the restaurant's general manager and include him in the security team during the lunch meeting tomorrow — who knows being the general manager he may have offered to let us pull our car straight into the basement garage and make our entrance through the kitchen.
On the day, at every step, the BG and his team will have their eyes peeled for anyone who might be surveying us, so he can get a jump on preventive measures. They will be looking for people who remain motionless among a generally active crowd, checking for hands in pockets, bulges in suit jackets. (Is that a real taxi, or are the decals on the doors just slapped on stencils, providing clever cover for someone to idle at the corner while observing us?)
“The A-list type doesn't want to draw attention. They go out the back of a nightclub, through as many as 12 doors, through a kitchen, to a waiting limousine. They want zero hype, and their security team needs to blend in.”
THOUGH MANY COMPANIES and wealthy individuals curtailed their security spending during the recession, the private-contract security-services market globally is poised to reach elevated levels in the current climate. You're either part of it or you’re not and that depends on how confident your Client/Principal is in you.
Many large companies, of course, have their own chief security officers and protective teams, but there is only so much they can handle, so they typically limit their services to a select level of officials. In many cases, when their executives travel, they'll augment their teams with agents from local private security firms that know the roads, customs and language, and that perhaps can provide experts licensed to carry a firearm there. Smaller firms and wealthy individuals may not have full-time security, instead hiring on an as-needed basis.
But private security can mean different things to different people. Is it a rent-a-cop who shows up on the morning of an event and asks what his role is, or an elite team who have trained together for weeks in advance, establishing communications protocols and working in shifts?
In the Film and Media Industry we deal with two types of Principals, the celebrity or A-list type, for example, who doesn't want to draw attention, wants zero hype, and their security team to blend in. (Covert) Then there is the B-List type who is different. "They're looking for cameras; they want to be on the red carpet with a big, ominous Samoan guy at their side. (Overt)
Many experienced specialists scoff at this style of celebrity protection— the thug with sunglasses and an earpiece model — as being more about image than actual safety. Not surprisingly, security pros say, clients do sometimes get in the way, thwarting the efforts of their own security. But these teams will have failed of their own accord too, which will not have gone unnoticed in cases where cameras were hovering.
Some critics have noticed celebrities swamped by unruly mobs at airports, for instance — a situation that can often be avoided by using VIP doors. One remembers the clown show in 2011 when a stalker attacked Paris Hilton's male companion as the couple walked outdoors.
Circled by paparazzi, Hilton's bodyguard tackled the stalker to the ground, put a knee in his back, and restrained him—but critics say that might have left Hilton, who had drifted a few yards away in the chaos, briefly unprotected. This first attack could have been a decoy.
It's difficult to compare presidential-level security teams to smaller private details, but many protection specialists find useful lessons in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Experts say the initial failure was allowing assailant John Hinckley Jr. to get too close with a weapon and they are right. The reactions of the law-enforcement officials on the scene are very telling for being inexperienced.
We see the police officers first duck for cover and then goes after the assailant, but you see the Secret Service guys employ totally different techniques. Agent [Timothy] McCarthy makes himself big and gets in front of a bullet while another agent grabs Reagan by the belt and shoves him in the car. Today the U.S. Secret Service are less inclined to rely on the police and now requires much tighter outer cordons while they manage the inner cordons.
Max Milien, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, says that although the agency won't discuss details, changes have since been made in the handling of arrivals and departures of presidents, such as 'the increased use of magnetometer' an instrument that detects the possibility of explosives. "Supervisory oversight of protective trips and events has increased greatly since 1981.
COSTS OF PRIVATE SECURITY is a variable that can vary widely, but can reach as much as $1,500 a day for an expert specialist. That doesn't include travel expenses (if there's a trip involved) or extras such as armoured vehicles. For example an American bank executive traveling to Israel who might require two armoured cars, four specialists and a week's stay at a five-star hotel would spend about $30,000, experts say.
Cost-cutting on security is false economising, yet we all know that some clients rein back on advance work fees, while others hire just one protective specialist after their security firm advises them that three would be the minimum required. The truth is that working alone while protecting a Principal is sometimes dubbed "the witness formation" by pros. What they are saying is that when working solo you are more likely to be a witness to an unfortunate event than to be able to prevent it -- Hell, you could even be a victim!
Best-selling author Brad Thor has received numerous anonymous threats, some in response to his book "The Last Patriot," which presented controversial theories about Islam. He isn't willing to face those threats on his own and he is smart enough to take the death threats seriously.
"I don't want a slab of beef who will slap someone around," he says. "I want intelligent guys who are reflective of my brand, and will barely get noticed unless they need to take action".
He's smart especially as the book tours are held in public and announced months in advance. The risks are incalculably high: - meaning his security, included rolling through Mexico in multiple armoured 4X4s during a perilous reporting trip - keeping watch outside his home and thwarting pranksters who hoped to embarrass him at an event. In looking for help, Thor sought a team that could exhibit restraint and reserve.
Contrary to action-movies, many security specialists don't carry weapons, since firearm laws vary from country to country. And because the goal is to avoid being involved in an attack and be moving the Principal out of danger. If you need a fire team or CAT (Counter Action Team) then you employ one whose clear and specific purpose it to engage with the assailant (sometimes there could be more than one) while you and your Principal evacuate the area.
The general consensus among the pros is to spend less time on the shooting range and more time practicing first-aid and driving techniques. If a Principal is injured far from a hospital, medical knowledge can be crucial.
With many attacks aimed at vehicles, knowing how to execute a reverse 180 (a skill anyone can master with a little practice) or how to ram another car out of the way (aiming your front headlights at the bad guy's rear tyre) may mean the difference between being a sitting-duck during an ambush or an escape. If things do get violent, having your wits about you can often prove more useful than a weapon in your hand.
The acronym FEAR comes to mind. In this instance it stands for Forget Everything And Run and that means you and your Principal. (I did want to use the F-word, but decided against it)
But perhaps the most overlooked executive-protection skill is not physical at all. It's social. The protector must develop the trust of his Principal who in turn must be prepared to obey without question instructions from you such as saying "When I tell you to go left, and everyone else is telling you to go right, I need you to trust me, you go left."
SURE ENOUGH, after 2 weeks intensive training, when the day for the assessment of skills learned from training with us arrives, if I am to be the Principal I want to barely register the BG and his team's presence for most of the time. I’d prefer that I often can't see them or him, as he's lurking just beyond the periphery of my vision, but with his eyes locked on me and theirs everywhere else.
When we enter or exit the car I hope to observe a particular choreography being employed for when he opens my door from the side safest to exit the vehicle ensuring that I'm never exposed to open view for longer than is necessary.
Should a van pull a three-point turn in front of us at an intersection, I wish the driver to leave evasive breathing room, while he and the BG simultaneously check out the bus stop shelter at the adjacent curb to see if anyone there is eyeing us up. I don’t want to be ambushed.
Later, at the party, it would be a smart move for the BG to pluck a half-drunk glass of wine from a waiter's tray as a prop (this is a leading suggestion), so he can appear to be another reveller even though he never, ever drinks on duty.
When we leave a venue, the BG will have communicated with our driver in advance so that the car is just outside the door in the right place at the right time, and will have scanned the sidewalk for any looming threats.
He will be warm and friendly with my companion — even if he/she should blurt out in a lounge a few key details of our evening's itinerary, for anyone nearby to hear. He's always respectful and appropriate with the knack for knowing when to blend into the scenery and when to be where I can see him if I need reassuring.
I hope it will be easy to forget he is with us, at times, even if he should be trailing us for a week or so. I also hope to feel assured that we could talk openly in front of him, with no fear of secrets being leaked to the press or anyone else for that matter.
More importantly—especially if there is a legitimate threat against me—I would like to feel supreme peace of mind the entire time.