Now, here me out. If you’re managing security projects it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have to deal and work with security personnel, bodyguards, and drivers that are not part of your team or company. Dealing with unknown personnel can be very problematic due to their potential lack of professionalism and egos.
As the President-Elect wrapped up his speech, now joined onstage by his extended family, my attention was on the members of the United States Secret Service who were close by. I thought of these men and the job that they were tasked to do. Not knowing them personally, I wasn’t aware of their political affiliations, were they a Democratic like Biden, or a Republican, rooting for the current President, Trump? They, like every other citizen of the country, were allowed to cast their votes, and could have picked either, or none. However, at that moment, on that stage, I don’t think it mattered. These agents, surely knowing the risk associated with the occasion, were focused on the task at hand: The safety of their protective charges, no matter their personal political affiliation.
Counter Surveillance is defined as the actions that a person (or team) carries out, in order to detect that a person (Principal) is under surveillance and to identify the composition and makeup of a hostile surveillance team.
In this article, Pete Jenkins talks through the key principles of a counter-surveillance operation.
There needs to be a healthy relationship with your clients, you don’t want to let them dominate you, and you don’t want to try to dominate and control them.
Boundaries must always be made clear as this works to protect you and your client’s interests. Clients are not your friends, they are clients paying you to provide them with a service, and if boundaries are ignored, it can undermine any respect in the business relationship.
What were some takeaways you obtained from your past line of work? And how have they helped you in the private sector realm?
When I look at the totality of what we do in this industry there are quite a few takeaways. From having dealt with the irate couples during a domestic dispute to negotiating a business deal the importance of not only verbal judo but communicative and interpersonal skills tops the list, followed by the skills I learned from collecting evidence at a crime scene where attention to detail was key.
In the context of close protection work, the use of firearms is often an all or nothing proposition. In most cases, you are either armed, or you’re not! There is a whole host of things that play into that, be it where you are, your level of certification, or the demands the client puts on you. All of that aside, I wanted to take some time and dig into the finer things, often overlooked when we talk about “strapping up.” Ammunition!
There’s something to be said about the art of reading people, especially in the protection industry. The ability to pick up on nonverbal communication is an area where most, if not all, protection practitioners are skilled.
You and I know each other on a personal level but for those that don’t, can you give us an insight about your background and how you broke into the private sector?
All my life I wanted to go into Law Enforcement, I wanted to be the closest thing to a superhero. possible. Sounds funny , but it’s true. I started working loss Prevention at 19 and after graduating the reserve police academy I started working the night clubs eventually leading my own team at 21. Soon after I was introduced to Executive protection and I thought it was something I could be successful in and decided to jump in industry with both feet.
Value-driven leadership doesn’t mean you tolerate underperformance, it just means excellence can be achieved with balance and inspiration and doesn’t require intimidation to garner results. As a leader, unless you have clarity in vision, you can never inspire others to follow. People don’t mind being led, as long as they know you understand where you are going.
If you are a security professional with significant high-threat worldwide protective services experience, you know that depending on the client, it may not be a matter of if your client or a family member is kidnapped, but when. You also understand that it is likely that you may not even be directly providing protection for the client at the time it happens and unable to prevent it, especially when they are alone and most vulnerable.
Surprisingly, many people who took part in the thread commented, saying that they don’t find anything wrong with it. Some of them even named their own old clients. Others tried to justify the practice of name-dropping by saying it was a former client, or that they didn’t reveal anything personal about the client, or that they had the client’s approval to post that picture or to name the client. And finally, some said their client is already pretty well-known and paparazzi are always getting pictures of them together so why hide it? Essentially, they are good guys, and how dare we criticize people we don’t know. These were a number of the comments from individuals who either work in the security industry as operatives or own companies and hire agents to represent them.
What happens when there is more than one primary client? What happens when the “primary” becomes two, three, four, or more? What happens when your client instructs you that their two-year-old, is the primary “client” on a particular day or outing?
Being an instructor for Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamics Institute has forwarded the opportunity to observe how a large section of professionals interact and function from different niches of the industry. Military, transnational EP teams, US based teams, Federal LEO’s or with civilians this theme shows through. Even in the larger training arena the change can be seen as more of the schools are starting to focus on classes or blocks of instruction such as client management and behavioral analysis. The discussion forms are flooded with conversations relating to how to work in a team dynamic. It doesn’t matter if its a 28 day school or a three day school, they will be touching on and teaching these topics.
In the past, I viewed Executive Protection (EP) as persons who provided corporate level protection. This was the guy who only walked with the CEO, politician, or other important corporate executives and dignitaries. With my limited understanding, I didn’t think of those who drive these same individuals as being considered Executive Protection agents as well. As an EP specialist, I now understand and have experienced some of the vast role’s EP work will encompass.
It’s not unusual for practitioners of our craft to find themselves operating as a “solo specialists” alongside their respective clients. The question is, are these days slowly coming to an end? If they are, how will we be able to convey this to our clients?
My transition was a tricky one. Coming from a field where we are trained to address crime once it happens, mentally it leaves you in response mode. EP is very proactive, as such, we must anticipate what could happen and work to mitigate that. Also, as an Law Enforcement Officer, you have control over almost every situation that you’re in. The law gives you that authority and that luxury. In Executive Protection, not so much. So there’s another shift in mindset that one must have. As an EP professional you don’t have the same authority that LEO’s have, so you can’t bark out commands, stop traffic, block public access, etc., as such, the transition was tricky. The best way I can describe it is, not difficult but also, not “easy,” so to speak.
Well, there really isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with this approach, after all, as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The trouble is if we continue to do the same thing in the same way we’re in danger of missing opportunities to improve, and surely that’s what we all want to do, become better, more efficient and smarter at what we do.
That’s undoubtedly the maxim I’ve always tried to apply to communications. We embraced digital radio enthusiastically when it first came on the scene 15+ years ago, even though doing so was detrimental to us in the short term, it paid off in the long-run. Many saw it as ‘revolution’ rather than ‘evolution,’ but eventually, it eclipsed its analogue forbear, and those naysayers had no choice but to evolve.
By now many of you have seen the recent photo of the Dallas shooter outside of the Federal Building. Ask yourself if this was your Office, School, or House of Worship how prepared would your company or institution be to recognize the signs of trouble as those Federal Officers did and deny access and ultimately defeat the shooter?
Think that sounds a bit cynical? Well, perhaps you’re right, but having been in the industry for over 30 years, and with a ‘Rock Star family’ as my current employers, it’s incredible how many times I’m reminded of this mantra and the virtues of following it. Maybe it’s just being in and around the music business, but I think everyone can take something away from this approach.
What are some traits and soft skills that you have acquired from working in inner city Philadelphia that has helped you In your line of work today?
I think the number one skill I’ve learned was the ability to talk to people to get the desired outcome. In the streets, you have to have the skillset to deescalate a deadly confrontation or you have to be able to get information from an individual who never intends to speak to you. That skill does not come overnight, and there’s a lot of trial and error, but the truth of the matter is, it’s all predicated on respect for the other individual. Also, being intentional and understanding what’s at stake are major factors for success.