Executive Protection (EP) has an extensive history spanning over two thousand years and has assisted in influencing many cultures throughout the world. Many of the most well known EP Specialists include the Samurais of Japan, the Medieval Knights all over Europe, and the Vatican’s Swiss Guard. The earliest protection organizations were most often military divisions assigned to protect one individual.
On the earliest acknowledged examples of an EP is the Praetorian Guard who began as a select group of bodyguards for Roman generals in the 2nd century BC and eventually developed into a protective force for Roman emperors. As the Praetorian Guard grew, they had gained enough power to ultimately effect the appointment of emperors; thus, becoming labeled as disruptive and were disbanded by Constantine I in 312 AD.
Another well known group of EP Specialists were the Yeomen of the Guard, established by King Henry VII in 1485. The Yeomen’s primary focus was to serve as the organization that provided personal protection for the ruler of England. Originally, the Yeomen provided security for the ruler while in transit to battle or overseas. With time the Yeomen took on the additional duties of guarding the palace entrances and tasting the food of the ruler. The Yeoman of the Guard is still in existence today.
The United States has a modern form of Executive Protection. In 1865 the U.S. developed the Secret Service which is still used today. Originally, the Secret Service was created to investigate currency counterfeiting crimes and did not truly take on EP efforts until 1894. Beginning as an informal part-time agency until 1901 when Congress invited the Secret Service to provide protection for the president. The need for presidential protection arose following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Full-time commitment for presidential protection was acquired by the secret service in 1902.
In more contemporary form, Executive Protection no longer relies on resources and powers of law enforcement and federal government. The separation is attributed to innovative techniques of mid-20th century corporations developing security departments. Within these security departments protection for top company executives was provided.
Initially, EP Specialists were chosen from organizations like the Secret Service, police departments, and military personnel. Eventually EP Specialists were able to ascend above the ranks of corporate security. These protection specialists began developing skills specifically pertinent to EP work; this derived from attending EP training programs/schools. These training facilities and schools were becoming increasingly common in the early 1980′s.
Executive Protection exploded in the early 1990′s as crime and violence grew within the workplace and high profile executive kidnappings led to having ransoms attached and death (in some cases). The main stream media played a major role in making these types of scenarios highly publicized and stimulated the swift growth of the EP field. Corporations quickly recognized the value of personal protection for top executives and began taking advantage of the safety EP Specialists provided.
Following the September 11th attacks, interest flourished and the need for EP expanded even further. Now EP was inclusive of not only high profile government officials but also persons who served in international diplomats globally. Corporations realized the potential threat of stock precariousness if their executives were targeted, causing many to turn to EP for the first time.
Within corporations EP serves a dual role; a business measure to preserve the company and (in many instances) maintaining factor of confidence from stock-holders, employees and customers. The smallest attack can cause the competency and attentiveness of the company to be questioned; hence, an invitation for unwanted attention to the organization. EP is present to create an atmosphere where business can flourish, allowing executives to concentrate on business while having confidence in their safety.
Executive Protection is the preferred professional term for the reason that “bodyguard” has developed connotations of someone more akin to a bouncer at a bar or a street thug, rather than a professional protection specialist. The goal of a professional is to provide protection while drawing as minute attention to the principal as well as the protector. The EP specialist’s state of mind focuses on prevention and avoidance of trouble rather than combating it.