By Bruce Alexander
Brains over brawn is how Michael McCann, former Director of Security for the U.N. and now CEO of McCann Protective Services (MPS) describes the new trend for Executive Protection in his March 1st article “Brains vs. Brawn – Determining New Trends in VIP Security” (www.securitymagazine.com) McCann stresses “professionalism, experience and discretion” as the defining trends for Executive Protection.
In his article, McCann emphasizes that selecting an EP specialist on size at the expense of professionalism, may create more problems. According to McCann, good EP practices such as a threat assessment and advance work can mitigate potential problems. However that’s assuming the EP specialist has the proper training and experience to begin.
Too often celebrities pay for protection by the pound and risk hiring someone who’s first instinct is to resort to force when confronted with a potential problem because they lack the requisite training and professional expertise to consider and employ other options. McCann does caution that physical fitness is still a prerequisite but physical stature alone should not be the defining criteria.
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. McCann if I wrote the article myself. I still am amazed that celebrities would rather surround themselves by look-alikes from the WWF than professional EP specialists who have the brains, demeanor and expertise that really matters to keep someone safe.
Having physical presence helps, but all the size in the world won’t make a difference against a determined adversary who has already figured out how to defeat any advantage that size might create. Using size to confront an adversary is a reactionary response. When celebrities finally figure out that by avoiding situations where their security doesn’t depend on the size of their protector perhaps then they’ll opt for protection that doesn’t put them in that position to begin with.
I don’t want to give Mr. McCann’s article short shrift here so I encourage you to read the rest of his article. His other points are definitely worth reading.
James G speaks the truth…
James G - Death Valley Mag
The “Big Dude” VS the “Highly Trained Average Looking Dude” debate has been going on in EP/CP/PSD circles as far back as I can remember.
The cold hard fact is guys with “The Look” will be chosen for gigs over guys with 10X more training and experience – especially for low threat domestic work.
And this will NEVER change.
If you think a guy who is a grad from ESI , has 10 years EP experience, is under 5’8”, weighs 160lbs and is average looking will be on equal recruiting ground with a 6’4” 240 pound guy with a jaw-line like a cereal box who has no formal training – then you are living in a fantasy land.
For overseas gigs your resume will count for more – but you still see PMC’s only hiring guys with “The Look” – I see this everyday
Some good examples [in the case of high risk gigs in places like Iraq] are Aegis, all of the PSD guys who work for them are all over 6 foot tall and look like male models and PSD Guys on the State Department contract also have “the Look”
All other skills being EQUAL… the individual with a better level of physical fitness will have an advantage in endurance, strength, mental acquity and self-confidence. It’s equalizing these other required skill sets that make the differen…ce. Remember that individuals with a genetic capacity to gain abnormal levels of muscular mass are anamolies within the whole. Just as armed and unarmed combative skills, play a part, so does that of fitness. Though it’s a small percentage… when it’s really needed it becomes critical.
Samuel R Hayes III
Having some experience with celebrities, I often found myself surrounded by these mountains of mindless muscle. As the saying goes “When you have lemons make lemonade” I would take the negative out of working with these untrained personnel …and put them to good use as crowd control, where their size was best utilized. That gave me the freedom to focus on my principal. Plus, think about it, if there is a legitimate high threat risk against your principal by a trained and dangerous threat, the big guys who are OBVIOUSLY security getting shot first serves as an early warning for those of us of more normal stature to react and get the client to safety.
Big guys create space when moving through crowds. However when your protection team is 6’8″ 400 pounds you create a situation which makes any potential adversary come with a higher level of force (usually lethal) because most people are fearful of big grabbed by a large person. Size only seems to matter in Hollywood as most seem to want the allure of protection and not actual trained protectors. Most people in Hollywood treat bodyguards like accessories anyway. Always looking for the next shinny thing.
Size doesn’t matter training and preparation do. Staying aware and focused will get you out of more situations than muscles will. I am 5’10 195 lbs and have a pretty successful clientele. I built my agency on the secret service model not the Gold’s Gym model. We consistently do advanced work, are constantly researching the laws in the states we are traveling to, regularly in the dojo and shoot 12 – 20,000 rounds per year and practice tactical medicine ongoing. Look at the people who protect the most important man in world the President. The Secret Service guys are all 5’9 – 6’2 175 to approximately 210 lbs. I think that puts perspective on the size issue.
With you on all counts, Hucky. To be the devil’s advocate, though, size can also be part of the proactive arsenal if you look at the deterrence factor; it’s not just something useful once things have gone wrong. Big protectors can be a reassuring presence for some clients, too. It’s “big and dumb” that’s a problem (and an image nightmare for us), but brains should definitely come before brawn, I agree.
Alonzo, I agree 100% with what Michael is saying.
Research and preparation aimed at identifying potential threats and contingency plans supersedes the need for big bouncer like bodyguards. Executive protection professionals receive training in skills such as defensive driving, emergency medical response and physical fitness. They know how to prepare for important events ahead of time and counter threats. Overall, what’s expected is everything it takes to make the life of your client safer. Anticipating needs is a big one— being able to look at a situation and determine what can go wrong and make sure it doesn’t; or knowing how to fix a problem once it occurs is what’s essential to our business.
Definitely a point worth making, Hucky. Not being a big guy myself, I try not to go there too often, lest people accuse me of preaching for my own choir, but private security, especially at the level of EP, is about being proactive instead of reactive, as you stated. Attitude, skill, and dedication carry the day much more often than muscles, IME.
And some bodyguards make things worse by creating bulk out of fat, not muscle, as though they were supposed to nothing more than human bullet backstops… There IS a market for that type in the celeb crowd, though, if I believe my eyes in LA.
In the end and to me, discussions about physical size are similar to those about caliber stopping power. Placement is king, but once you have that down, a bigger “rock” doesn’t hurt, and if it’s well designed you have a winner. So in a perfect world, EP guys would be larger people with smarts and skills. Not such an easy balance to strike.
I agree with you and Mr. McCann, I think executive protection professionals need to be in great shape as far as their cardio, being able to carry or run with an injured person, and stand for long periods of time at a post without falling asleep. This leave most smokers out, and I won’t even hire someone who smokes.