The Many Faces Of Close Protection

By Samuel R. Hayes, III

Following the events of September 11, 2001, the private security industry has seen a dramatic change in the way it does business. No other discipline within the industry has seen as dramatic of a change as close protection services.

No longer are these services the exclusive domain of the Ultra High net worth individual or high ranking government figure. The industry has seen an incredible growth spurt in those desiring and needing close protection services across various segments of society and has benefited tremendously from the lack of manpower capabilities of law enforcement agencies and government entities.

Along with this increased need has come an increase in qualified training and career development at different levels. It’s been my observation that these segments can be broken down as VIP/Celebrity Protection, Executive Protection, Dignitary Protection, and High?Threat Personal Security Details. The fundamental core principals may seem to be the same but when a closer look is afforded it becomes obvious that each segment is faced with a unique set of challenges.

This segment of the industry is unique in that oftentimes we are called upon to protect our clients from threats that stem simply from them being well recognized due to having attained celebrity status as an actor/actress, sports figure, musician/entertainer, etc. Sometimes these threats to your client can be their own poor judgment and behavior (T.I., Lindsey Lohan, Charlie Sheen, etc).

These threats, more often than not, come from the swells of adoring fans that would go through great lengths just to be near their idol. These fans, individually, rarely pose a danger or threat to your principal or mean to cause them harm, but when you multiply them by hundreds or even thousands at public events and performances, the threat level becomes real.

There are also times when fans adoration for your client can become obsessive and the threat then grows into patterns of behavior associated with stalking. Let’s not forget the threat also posed by paparazzi and an overzealous media to get a first line on the personal life of celebrity clientele, an example being the tragic and untimely death of Princess Diana.

As a close protection specialist serving this type of client, your social graces and etiquette become far more important than your martial arts skills and marksmanship. As a professional, you are tasked with protecting your client as well as not doing anything that would cause your client any embarrassment like assault a member of the media.

Here’s the cincher, at the highest level of performance of your duties, this should be accomplished in a discrete manner without you imposing any dramatic or inconvenient changes to your client’s lifestyle. If this is the niche you seek to carve out for yourself, an understanding of things such as the daily operations of a movie set, concert /performance venue layout, red carpet coordination should all be on your training agenda.

These skills will be invaluable in allowing you to perform your duties but not
interjecting yourself into your clients photo?ops because you’ve not studied the lay out and are too close or not close enough to avert a potential incident.

Oftentimes corporations seek to have high level senior executives’ assigned protective details due to the potential for catastrophic loss to the company and its shareholders in the event something should happen to said executive. Kidnapping for ransom is a very real threat in today’s society, particularly for executives who travel abroad.

Some companies have even gone as far as to have kidnap and ransom insurance policies on their personnel and assign protective details as a redundant security measure.

Protective detail members in this environment should have a strong working knowledge and understanding of basic corporate culture as well as in depth knowledge of the companies operations, products and services, as discretion in this type of environment is usually of a higher priority than the aforementioned celebrity detail.

In this type of environment you may be tasked with protecting your client while posing as an executive assistant or even a member of his/her business team with a little something extra in your briefcase other than pencils and notepads. In any event the key objective here is to fit in, blend with your environment.

At this level, a much higher level of training and experience is often required as these types of assignments may be under a contract with a government entity thus posing a significantly higher risk. On the private side, your services may be called on more in a support capacity to enhance a smaller official detail.

An example of this would be a detail I worked on some years ago when a visiting dignitary from a foreign country did a speaking tour of various US cities after being released from prison where he was held for speaking out against an oppressive regime.

Although me and my team were not assigned to his immediate close protection detail we were tasked with supporting a State Department Diplomatic Security Detail and thus had to be HEAVILY vetted during the DSS advance. The responsibilities as a member of a protective detail in this segment are also going to be situational depending on whether the detail is an OCONUS or CONUS assignment and whether you are working in a permissive or non?permissive environment.

This segment of close protection work has seen a tremendous upswing since the events of 911 and the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) began. The large majority of this work is performed OCONUS all over the continent of Africa, Asia, the middle east, south America and various other global hot?spots.

These areas are usually politically unstable and rife with violence from rebel groups and corrupt military’s under the rule of maniacal dictators, hence making it a very dangerous assignment even when NOT assigned to a principal. It usually requires some form of military combat experience gained through multiple tours as a member of the US military special operations community or some type of qualified combat arms military occupational specialty (MOS).

The problem here is that the Spec?Ops community is so specialized and small in comparison to the standard military that in a very short period of time, the “talent pool” dried up which forced the private sector and government contract procurement professionals, to stretch the requirements a bit. This saw an influx of public law enforcement officers and younger troops with the qualifications on paper but limited combat experience, filling these positions.

It’s thought throughout the industry that this loosening of restrictions are partially responsible for some of the horrendous acts of unprofessional behavior such as the Armor Group “Animal House” Party, Black Waters killing of civilians and the Edinburg Risk Ambush fiasco.

Each of these segments requires very specific training, methodologies and personalities to successfully manage these assignments. Unfortunately, not all of the skill?sets acquired correlate to performing close protection at all of these levels.

A celebrity protection specialist who has done this type of work all of his career is probably not going to get hired by Dyncorp or Triple Canopy to do PSD work in the Middle East. Conversely, a seasoned Army Ranger with multiple combat tours and time spent overseas as a private military contractor may not adjust well to the lack of structure and discipline sometimes encountered in the lifestyles of celebrity clients.

  • Joe Campbell

    “Great points as each type of client has a different need and requirement from the BG.”

  • Alonzo Gomez

    Very useful information to people starting out. We all end up finding what we’re best at, or what assignments we prefer, but it takes time. Having a good grasp of the various aspects of the industry right off the bat can help folks select the type of training they need for the market segment(s) they target primarily.

  • Sean Kohlhepp

    Samuel, this is a very solid article I appreciate your contribution.

  • Leon S. Adams

    Very well written and informative, Sam.

  • http://Facebook Jomans

    Wow! Very helpful article! My understanding in EP getting better and broader..the enthusiasm to improve in my job…and to be more focus…God Bless!

  • Ahsan

    a very nice article for anyone to get in security, thanks for writing such a piece.