There are many facets to executive protection and each with its own pulse. While foundationally, there’s no difference on the fundamentals, the “beat” can be different.
The nuances of each detail vary, and the protection packages are tailored to fit them. For instance, each and every day, educational institutions are presented with their own unique set of security challenges.
Unfortunately, the US, as well as other countries, has experienced too many tragic incidents on school campuses. While these incidents are usually carried out against individuals without personal protection, what happens when there is a Protective Detail in the area? If we looked at the differences between school security personnel (also known as “resource officers”) and executive protection, would there be a clear distinction from the perspective of teachers and faculty of the educational institutions? How is close protection viewed when it comes to halls of education? How does the staff feel about an armed EP professional on the school ground or even in class?
To examine the scope and offer some insight into the mindset of school administration, I had the privilege to interview an experienced educator and faculty member at the campus where I have performed protection services for a client. For operational security reasons, we will omit the name of the school and refer to the educator as Ms. H.
Mark: Ms. H, in your opinion, are schools that provide education to/for the privileged safer to work at? If so why?
Ms. H: Yes, I believe that schools that provide education for the privileged are safer to work at. There is an extra sense of security knowing that someone who is highly trained is always there watching for any unsafe activity while I am focusing on teaching and going about my day.
Unfortunately, we have far too many school shootings in this country, what do you think are some of the main causes as you see them?
Professionally, I believe that some of the main causes of school shootings in this country are bullying, mental health problems, and either experiencing or witnessing some type of abuse at home. These things lead to depression and anxiety on many different levels where students tend to become reactive to try and fix their problem in a negative way, instead of proactive to try and fix their problem in a positive, successful way.
As an educator, what are some of the feelings or emotions that an educator goes through when they either hear of, or witness a shooting in school?
Thank the Lord I have never personally witnessed a school shooting before. But no matter where the situation happens, it always hits very close to home. After hearing about a school shooting, feelings of worry and anxiety flood my mind. As an educator, I become confident and go into protection mode where I want to reassure my students that I would do anything I needed to do to protect them if anything happened at our school. Deep down inside, I am scared.
Are teachers trained or is there training available to teachers to spot behavioral issues with a student that could potentially be detrimental to the school or others?
We are not trained professionally, but we are required to make note of specific behaviors and keep in constant communication with administration about any student that we find displaying any negative behavior that could be detrimental to others. I would love if my school offered training on this though.
How do you think as a whole, that this school is prepared for a catastrophic event? And do you feel safe?
I do feel safe. The security plans and procedures we have in place are the best we can do, given a situation like this and I think that as long as we abide by our plans we will be okay.
As you know, I’m a protection specialist for my client that attends this campus. How are the specialists that work here perceived?
Keeping in mind your purpose for being on campus, my colleagues and I still find comfort knowing that you are highly trained and present, constantly watching for any unsafe activity. We do know and are fully aware that if something were to ever happen, your client comes first, and we respect that. But we also know that your job is to keep the campus safe for your client and therefore we are safer because of it.
Do you think that teachers should carry guns in class?
I do believe that with proper training and a mental health assessment teachers should have a gun locked away in the classroom. I do not believe we should carry it around campus though.
We have an armed campus security officer here that works independently from us, what are some of the notable differences you see in us, as opposed to campus security?
Aside from different purposes of being there, I do not see any major notable differences in what you do as far as keeping our campus safe. You both take your positions very seriously and it shows. One difference that is noticeable however, is your overall appearance as a highly trained professional compared to a school resource officer. You carry yourself differently than him in ways. For Instance, the way you associate with your client and your client’s family, to the way you approach and speak to faculty, down to the way you dress. You can tell that you are a no-nonsense kind of guy that takes his job very seriously. This shows that your level of training and professionalism is at a higher level than his.
Have you found in your experience over the years that faculties respond better to Executive Protection Specialists than the school resource officer?
I do find that faculty responds better to EPS than the school resource officers. Keeping in mind that the EPS is there specifically for a handful of students, the presence of a higher trained individual does make the staff have a better sense of security regardless of his purpose for being there.
As you are aware, a couple of months ago we had a security breach of this campus. We placed the school into a full lock down and a lot of law enforcement responded. What was that agonizing two and a half hours like for you and your students while on lockdown?
This was a very scary day for many reasons. We didn’t know if it was an unscheduled Code Red practice or if it was real. We only inferred it was real by the sound of my administrator’s voice over the walkie-talkies. We treated it as a practice so our students would not be worried. There was limited conversation through text message as we were advised to not use our phones and to wait for an all clear from administration. So, not knowing what was going on and if we were safe or not was very scary as a teacher! On top of that, I had to contain my emotions and put my game face on so that my students would continue to think it was a practice. Students were antsy from being in one place for too long and some became worried as they caught on that it may be real. I continued to remind my students that we had security on campus and we were in good hands and safe. I told them that you were trained for moments like this and we had nothing to worry about. I felt confident in saying that.
What’s it like in the aftermath of an incident where a lockdown is ordered? What counsel, if any, is given to your students to help with their security preparedness?
After a lockdown is ordered, we try not to talk in detail about the situation.
Yes, we remind them of our safety procedures and that they are safe and protected and there is nothing to worry about. We go about our day and continue teaching. We leave the details of the situation for administration to handle appropriately. We never want to say something to our students to scare them and make them feel unsafe.
In your opinion, is having both an educational portion and a religious portion, on the same campus, better or worse for safety? Does having a religious sanctuary for staff and students to attend lessen tensions on campus and provide for better overall harmony/security?
This is a question I struggle with. I believe that having an educational portion along with a religious portion is better for safety as there have been far less school shootings found in private schools versus public schools. I’d like to believe that this is because we are ultimately protected by God. After a real lockdown or a practice lockdown, we as teachers comfort each other with reminders of God’s presence on our campus. Some things that do go through my mind are the fact that some people may look at our school and disagree with our religious beliefs and take it upon themselves to show their disagreement through harmful acts.
Ms. H, while it isn’t over yet, what has this pandemic shown you about education, that you never realized before? Has this pandemic challenged you to be a better educator for your students, in a less secure and less cohesive environment?
This pandemic has shown me that educators are underappreciated and underestimated as to how far we will go to make sure our students are still learning and growing academically. I worry about my students’ overall wellbeing. I also find that I am working longer hours now just to make sure they are engaged and on track for next year. I miss being in my classroom and pray we can get back to normal as soon as possible.
Executive protection is expanding, and as it becomes even more expansive, we as an industry must be prepared, trained, and willing. Schools are sanctuaries, supposed safe environments, but they will only remain that way if we, all of us, answer the call. Conversations like this reinforce that others take notice as well.
Other Side of The Desk
By: Mark Roche
Mark Roche is a US Based, full-time Executive Protection Specialist who works full time with a HNW Family. He is also a FAA Licensed Drone Pilot, specializing in EP related uses, and a graduate of multiple close protection programs.