Where will it lead you, and what will it have you doing? Brace yourself because you’ll discover there are many different moving parts and applications of practice in this business.
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.
Executive Protection is more than an individual who drives a car or walks alongside a corporate executive. It is a training, a discipline, and a mindset, which one must adopt to become proficient, skilled, and an expert as others are depending upon all of these abilities.
Let me share two of the best lessons for anyone in this business. One is to realize that learning never stops. It doesn’t matter if you are new or have worked in the industry for many years, the moment you think you know it all is the moment the light in your career will start to go dim. Number two is always keep trusted, seasoned, and proven professionals as mentors and advisors. This is not to say you won’t have your own way of doing things, every business has its own flavor. Some can guide you as you get started or if you hit a bump in the road. One thing that has helped as I grow my business is to be able to receive advice as well as crucial critique. I believe it is out of genuine concern for my growth and future and never an act of malice or contempt. When I earnestly assess a situation, adjustments can be made which works best for my business and family.
As a new EPS, I continue to study and learn to be the best I can in the field. Before researching, I had no idea that there is so much to learn about the business. With that in mind, I looked again at my thoughts and opinions on the true definition of Executive Protection. Furthermore, on a recent assignment, I was caught a bit off guard after a briefing the day before the task begun. This briefing disclosed a client being protected from sex traffickers, the involvement of a cult, and 24-hour surveillance for the victim and family. Of course, I thought this was surely a case for the FBI. During the briefing, I realized it wasn’t that simple. With any assignment, it is crucial to understand all details and facts before making assumptions. Victims don’t all start out in the same manner. Some situations start with persons voluntarily engaged with others and end up trapped. The key is for all EP personnel to be fully briefed, trained, and ready to adjust to any situation.
Here are two definitions of sex trafficking. The first was my only understanding of the subject before the assignment. The second is what I actually learned from being part of the assignment. Read them both and see whether you get a clearer and/or different picture from your current understanding.
Sex Trafficking is the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
“Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They look for people who may be susceptible due to factors such as psychological or emotional vulnerability, economic hardship, lack of a social safety net, natural disasters, or political instability. The trauma caused by the traffickers can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help, even in highly public settings.”
Homeland Security understands that both sexes disappear into the darkness of this trade, and many never to be seen again. What I can tell you for sure is if a family has the resources and desires their child to be found and removed, then they will use those means to do whatever they can to get their
child back, and that includes using guys and gals like us at some point.
Wealthy victims are sometimes picked not just for the sex trade, but also because they have the possible link to the family finances. So in these cases, the bad guys want the victim as a means to fund their projects. The poor girls are usually just a sex object, but the wealthy child can be the means of financing the operation. These groups aren’t just the Russian and Turkish mobs we see in the movies. Some operate as religious organizations, local street gangs and other groups of deceit and persuasion. They prey on the unhappy, rebellious, adventurous, or dissatisfied child, or they may just kidnap their victims. Let me be clear, it’s definitely not always done by force and many times it only takes some clever coercion; coercion that’ll have the victim making the decision on their own to want to be a part of this lifestyle. And maybe they truly do, but then the question becomes, why. Why do most join street gangs? Because in many cases, the gang will be the family that the child feels their biological family isn’t being.
I was not personally involved with the rescue of this victim but served as the lead driver for the victim and family once they recovered her. Along with a shadow driver and 24-hour surveillance vehicles at whatever property we stayed. This was a very fluid operation, meaning the hotels and locations can change at any minute. It could include using resources in several states, including private investigators, law enforcement on many levels, counselors, doctors, and medical health facilities.
When a victim from an impoverished background gets taken, and the family doesn’t have the means to look for her they have to depend on charitable organizations and overwhelmed police forces; often their only hope may be an escape. And sometimes, they may give up the fight altogether and except their desperate new life. The captors often won’t go looking for these girls if they escape but can be very violent if they do find them.
When the victim is from a wealthy family, they are often targeted because of the financial potential they offer. When the victim thinks the guy or girl they met in their social movements is a chance meeting, many times it’s not. Whether online, school, club or at the coffee shop, often they were already picked out. They are picked simply because of their families status. Meaning not only do they get the victim, but they get the opportunity to extort money from the family.
While we are protecting, there are Private Investigators who are investigating. You can get new information at any hour or minute. It can be updated information on the players in the trafficking organization, new vehicle descriptions and license plates to look out for, cell phone pings (if being tracked, and our suspects were being) and a host of other intel.
These criminal groups have been known to check into hotels, hospitals and anywhere they think the victim may be publicly housed, even if it’s just to make eye contact with the victim and convince them of the still-present threat. And not always the danger to them, but perhaps to a family member. They’ll have the victim feeling their family isn’t safe if they don’t rejoin the cult of sex traffickers. Many times, the victim wants to go back because the parents can be a contributing reason in an already strained family situation. There could be mental health issues, drug addiction, plain old rebellion and other factors that can go wrong amid the aftercare.
In the parents’ frustration, they’ll use threats of taking money away, and abandonment if the child doesn’t comply. That’s when many times the child may think, “what’s the difference with being with you or them!” When you have counselors suggesting mental institutions and halfway houses, over going home, no cellphone or social media use until they show signs of stability and maturity, there is going to be a battle to keep the young adult stable enough, long enough to clear their head. And after all of this, there are no guarantees that the person won’t flee or go missing again.
This was a physically, and emotionally draining assignment. A different story to tell, and one which unexpectedly became a part of my own story over the time I spent with them. A week quickly turned into a month, and every day brought surprises and uncertainty. I just wanted to share a bit of my experience as I go through my thoughts lying awake when I should be resting. After spending a week with this 21-year-old victim I must admit, it started to feel a little personal and at times I’ve wished I had the resources and ability to hunt down people like this and do a Liam Neeson, from Taken, on them. Okay, movie fantasy over; the point is, it’s hard not to feel the hurt too. It hurts enough so that your natural instinct is to wish you could respond in a manner that won’t allow there to be another victim. To see so much torment, in the family and with the victim is saddening and hurtful. It’s hard being asked questions you can’t answer, which should only be answered by professional counselors. You try to avoid getting too close and personal, as with all assignments, and mainly it was a case of observing, reporting, and being prepared to move or protect at a moment’s notice. Although this assignment had many similarities to most
other EP assignments, there was added stress because of the subject matter and possible targeting of not just one person, but potentially a whole group.
Here’s a great take away, very successful persons in this field must have excellent adjustment ability. No matter what the assignment, if they call on us and we accept the work, then we must be ready to adapt so, we can successfully accomplish a task that we may have never have been trained for. We must always prepare to be our best so we can do our best, regardless. We’ll make mistakes, but there’s no excuse for not being knowledgable, and mentally and physically prepared for the task.
In the end, what is Executive Protection? It is the provision of protection and safe movement for whoever requests it.
Through this experience, I have grown and learned so much, not merely about Executive Protection, but about myself too. It doesn’t matter what the brief is if we accept the assignment, we must always be trained, ready, and professional in executing those services.
What is Executive Protection?
By: Donald Sadler
Donald Sadler is a licensed executive protection specialist with over 30 years of professional driving experience. His knowledge base includes training in pre-advance route planning, personal protection, and trauma care. Donald is also a member of The International Security Drivers Association.