“Assassination of royalty was a common event and it was a customary thing for kings to have bodyguards sleep in their bed. King Henry VIII of England (known to have had six wives) routinely slept with bodyguards in the royal bed. King James survived two kidnappings and four violent attempts on his life. Such experiences did nothing to cause King James to break with the normal procedure of always keeping his bodyguards close at hand. In sharing his bed with royal bodyguards, King James was only following the normal practice of the royalty of his time.” 1
When early pioneers of professional close personal protection entered the “bodyguard” business in the late 1970’s it was met with skepticism, cynicism and wonder; wonder why and where the clients would come from. There were terrorist activities in places like Northern Ireland and the Mid East but in the United States there appeared to be little need for professional protectors.
There were the occasional business leaders, government officials and Middle Eastern expatriates and royal family members but overall business was very sporadic. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the executive protection business grew slowly but the education, training and professionalism still lagged. It was the same pioneers who grew the business who saw the potential growth of private security and a need to bring high-level education and training, professionalism and credentialed licensing to the embryonic field.
It was our philosophy that from the communication of knowledge, experience, new ideas, procedures, training, raising the bar of personal and professional qualifications and required licensing would be born the necessary recognition of a respected and increasingly necessary profession.
In the early-to-mid 1970’s, after several corporate executive kidnappings and terrorist acts which included assassinations and general threats against the corporate world, major companies (especially international companies at first) began looking seriously at providing bodyguards for vital and vulnerable executives. Celebrities and public persons soon saw a need for a personal security position to protect them from the very public they wanted to recognize and idolize them. The police could not provide this function because of their limitations of manpower, money and jurisdiction and authority restricted by legal boundaries.
For a company to provide private security to its personnel, the company had to either establish an “in-house” position or contract to a private entity. The best most private security companies could offer were security guards who were trained to sit or stand at a particular post, sometimes to patrol a specific route checking locks and doors and to report any unusual activity they happened to discover or observe. A company representative, often a personal secretary or human resources person, most usually filled the position by looking in the telephone book yellow pages under “private investigator” and locating one who also did “bodyguarding”. That probably meant a former policeman who was licensed to carry a firearm. There were limited choices.
The private eye/bodyguard usually had no specialized training in the complex factors of executive protection. The “bodyguard” might be armed and may be trained in some method of martial arts but a large number of guards received all their training and experience as “bouncers” in nightclubs, playing college or professional football, weight lifting or bodybuilding or were just big, mean and tough.
With the onset of the Iranian Revolution (1978-1979), a small but very significant change began happening in the security business. Notice was made of the increasing numbers of Iranian expatriates immigrating or escaping, to the United States. Many of these immigrants were wealthy and influential people back in their own country. Out of fear they created a niche for professional executive protection specialists. Well trained and experienced protective personnel of agencies such as the Secret Service, the FBI, the Naval Investigative Service, The U.S. Marshall’s Office and other agencies left their government jobs and founded businesses whose speciality was executive protection. Many of the businesses found success.
In the present day, executive protection has gained its place in the corporate and business worlds, as well as the entertainment industry, private individuals and professional occupations. A new title, Executive Protection Specialist, and then Close Personal Protection Agent replaced the term bodyguard with a new image as it connotes professionalism, training, and integrity. The “private eye/bodyguard” has given way to highly-trained and educated specialists who are as comfortable in a corporate boardroom or mingling with presidents and kings as they are in the violent world of the streets.
A quick check for executive protection on the internet today reveals Hundreds of practicing operatives and training schools.
It is now very rare, if indeed it is ever practiced, for a “bodyguard” to share a bed with the person he is assigned to protect as a matter of standard professional performance. But “keeping ‘bodyguards’ close at hand” is surely a very much accepted practice for those who cannot defend themselves yet lead lives conducive to becoming a victim of stalkers, molesters, rogues, robbers, kidnappers and terrorists. There have been many changes in the role of the “protector” through the years and these changes can be expected to continue into the future.
The terminology used to describe the discipline of “Protection” has also undergone significant changes in recent years. Today the term “Bodyguard” is still used, but very infrequently except by those who, like the North American Bodyguard Association, intentionally use the moniker as a means to professionalize the concept by raising standards and awareness through training.
This has come about:
1) To try to increase the professional stature of the protection agent
2) To try to distance today’s protectors from the hired thug image that many people have of bodyguards.
3) To remind people that “Body” takes away the living human image of the person being protected and he is being protected not “guarded”
4) To bring the image of the protector more in line with his responsibilities
5) To illustrate a movement toward a more realistic description of the full range of services provided by a person designated to neutralize danger
6) To show that providing a full protective service is “More Than Standing and Waiting”
The bodyguard stereotype has evolved these days. A female protector is a more natural fit with a female client, being less obtrusive and in keeping with gender roles. She can be a protector, acting as a friend, housekeeper or babysitter. If you’re working with children, for example, a female can take them to the park or pick them up from school and no one’s sure if she’s the nanny or the mother.
A woman can sit in a restaurant or go shopping with a client without drawing attention.
In the last thirty five years the “bodyguard” profession has evolved into higher stages including education, training, and experience. The differences between a “bodyguard” and a “close personal protection specialist” are continuing to evolve. A “bodyguard” relies more on size, combative skills and intimidation rather than on planning, anticipation, and preparedness. The North American Bodyguard Association is working toward changing the stereotypes by requiring everyone working in the private personal protection business to meet specific requirements.
Many still cling to the word “bodyguard” but have surpassed that stereotype in their rise to professionalism embracing all that that implies and have become personal protection specialists. There also are those who have not evolved to the highest standard and will take any assignment if it pays them, even a very low wage. There is always plenty of work for these individuals because many clients “shop” for security based only on fees. The adage of ”You get what you pay for” could never be truer. But what they are doing is betting their life on the lowest bidder.
Excerpted and edited from Introduction to Executive Protection by Dale L. June to be published in early 2015 by CRC Press
By: Dale L. June
1 American Institute of Executive Protection Condensed History of Close Protection; www.angelfire.com/extreme/lawenforcement/execprotection/hx.html; retrieved 01/10/062 www.priavosecurity.com/blog/the-rise-of-the-women-in-black/ Posted July 29, 2014; Retrieved October 6, 2014