The Bodyguard Myth (Part II) - The real work behind the job
By Roman Walde - Close Protection Agent, Former Swiss Police Officer, member with the International Association of Personal Protection Agents (IAPPA), Book Author, and Security Consultant
Close protection agents, bodyguards, or whatever we prefer to call them, have to act intelligently, vigilantly and with absolute foresight. Today, in the second part of this series, we will show you how much planning and preparation is behind what we see on the surface.
The Different Areas of Personal Protection
Professional bodyguards go through extensive training so they can detect sensitive situations ahead of time. This way, wild car chases, fights, shooting and action scenes as the ones seen in Hollywood can be avoided.
Think of an IT protection department. They shouldn't spend their time trying to recover or destroy files stolen by hackers but finding threats and their own weaknesses before they take place. They should close the gaps so so attacks can't even occur. You don't hear anything about the best IT security departments. Because there's nothing to report. All that Hollywood stuff? It's running after hackers and trying to recover stolen files.
This might sound boring but brings us to an absolutely important point: the real personal protection does not only consist of the protection agents who are directly on site but also of a complete team with complementary tasks.
Teamwork in Personal Protection
When talking about executive or VIP protection, it can be mainly divided into two areas: The direct personal protection (sometimes called "close protection"), i.e. the agent near the protected person, and the indirect personal protection (also called extended personal protection), the intelligence. The task of close-range personal protection is probably known to most people, namely the direct guard of the client. But what is that “intelligence” anyway and what is it needed for?
Intelligence as Part of Personal Protection
Personally, I would define intelligence and its benefits this way: "Intelligence is the connection of various measures and precautions which serve to gather information in order to prevent attackers from preparing for and attempting to harm the protected person and their inner circle". This means collecting, evaluating and analyzing information - extensively - in order to identify dangers and risks in advance. With that knowledge and with the implementation of strategic measures, the threats can be kept away from the protected person seamlessly.
Now that you know how intelligence works in personal protection, you can decide for yourself: Is it important? Absolutely. Because professional (i.e. intelligent) personal protection only works with intelligence. Dangers and risks will always exist, but knowing where they lurk will help enormously to ensure the safety of the person being protected and of all those involved. Information can be provided by different means but it is crucial that it be always up-to-date and exchanged with the team. This way, threat levels can be reassessed depending on new information and proper measures can be taken.
Recognizing Suspicious Behavior
Nowadays, many aspects of the job can be done better and easier with the use of technology. However, due to legal limitations, the application of such technology is often limited to their own houses, apartments or other personal properties. An example would be spotting someone going to the front door during the day without ringing the bell or manipulating the mailbox.
Operational measures, on the other hand, require the deployment of human power in the areas where the protected person will be staying. This could be the reconnaissance of the route or the premises the client will be using. During their execution, information about any potentially unusual findings is gathered and shared with the team. For instance: parked cars with license plates from abroad (or identifiable rental vehicles), individuals who look nervous or pass by several times, someone waiting at a bus stop for long or even doors and windows around that are constantly open. All small things that might work together with other observations of the team in order to identify potential threats.
Overview of the Tasks in Personal Protection
Personal protection should always be based on a holistic protection concept:
Assessment of the situation:
Identifying risks and dangers
Inquiring about past security-related events
Current threats and incidents
Priorities to be set
Threat level classification
Defining protection goals
Considering client's preferences/wishes
Defining strategies and protection measures together:
Designing a protection concept
Threat and crisis management plan
Review of the measures adopted:
Ongoing risk and danger analysis
Current assessments of the situation
Incorporate (new) intelligence information
This is a constant process that should be repeated at all times. Unfortunately, the topic of personal protection is being given less and less attention in many companies for cost reasons. The number of direct personal protection personnel in a team is reduced, reconnaissance is often omitted or only used sporadically.
There is no doubt: Personal protection generates costs and, therefore, professional personal protection will never be cheap. Intelligence, equipment, know-how, training, vehicles, reconnaissance missions, analyses and much more is part of the items that are included in the bill.
All that costs money. However, it will always be possible to find a service provider offering “executive protection” almost for free. Based on what we have learned in this series of articles, we know that professional bodyguards - i.e. those who possess a recognized executive protection certification - are much more than portable bouncers, big guys blocking the way and walking close to you.
At the end of the day, the only question that matters is: “How much is my life worth?”