Bodyguard Careers has addressed this topic before on this site (A SLIPPERY SLOPE: Balancing Ethics With Discretion as a Bodyguard) but I think it is worth another examination, given a breaking news story. As many of you may already know, former Navy SEAL bodyguard Stephen “Otter” Otten has been sent to jail for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into his employer’s former company, Broadcom Corporation. The company is under investigation for illegally backdating stock options and falsifying reported income. The jailed man’s attorney stated on behalf of Otten that “SEALs don’t snitch.”
I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m not sure I’d be willing to go to jail for my employer’s (alleged) misconduct or indiscretions or illegal activity.
I am curious as to how it is that Otten would be in possession of any corporate information as regards Broadcom–or that Otten was even aware of any wrong-doing on the part of his employer. Perhaps he was witness to certain meetings, or heard conference calls, nobody knows for certain. My understanding is that his job was to protect his employer’s children.
I do know that over the long haul of my years as a bodyguard, I saw things that were questionable, and witnessed all kinds of behavior–but never felt that I was in a position of being held accountable or responsible for another adult’s actions. BUT I also learned when to draw the line and let my employers know that I was not going to participate in anything illegal.
I can imagine how a young person, who is being paid a hefty salary could be convinced by an employer to conduct themselves in ways that serve their employer, but harm themselves. Which is why it is vital that bodyguards not become “star-struck” with the celebrity they are paid to protect. It is important to remember that these individuals–no matter how famous, rich, or influential–are people who are subject to the same laws and will suffer consequences for illegal actions.
It is extremely important to let your employer know that you will not participate in illegal activities of any kind. As to morals, that is something of a “gray” area. Some clients will cheat. Some will lie. Some will want you to “cover” for them. At some point, you may be in a position where you will need to ask yourself if the paycheck is worth it. If you sign on to work with a client who is known to be involved in drugs, or risky behavior you have signed on to an assignment that could potentially land you in hot water.Â
I think the wisest thing to do would be to remind your employer that just as you are keeping them safe and secure from harm, that you expect the same from them. Tell them in advance that you’re not willing to risk arrest. If you’ve been hired and it is clear that your employer is putting you in jeopardy you may need to resign. There is no “gray” area if it’s a choice between jail or a paycheck. The law is black and white.