When a bodyguard looks like a lost sheep.

There are people out there who think anybody can be a bodyguard – especially if you are big and/or look like you know what you are doing. Some of these people are called Clients, whilst others are called “colleagues”.

I can forgive the clients. They know no better. Our “colleagues” however, can not be forgiven as they should definitely know better. Would you like an example?

I’ll actually provide two(real)examples. There is a security company who provides security to embassies. They began by providing just uniformed security personnel, but discovered quite soon that providing Executive Protection could be another revenue stream for them.

One day a Middle Eastern client requested E.P. agents to accompany female Principals around Washington D.C. The company did not have any personnel properly trained in Executive Protection (may still be the case), but seeing the potential for extra billing, they dispatched two uniform females.

The females had no clue what they should do and to their credit, advised a supervisor of this fact. They were told; “put on civilian clothes and just walk behind the Princesses”. This was told to me by a staff member.

More recently, we had a large team of Agents involved in a celebrity red carpet event. I had been in contact with the promoter for days before the event and was appraised on possible threats – both known and anticipated.

Due to the existence of certain incidents which occurred just days before the event, we discussed the need to increase the number of agents and provided literature and intel to all of the agents involved. Based on the information we had, we increased the level of security in certain areas where we anticipated problems.

The Director of Security for the venue walked our team around the facility and pointed out emergency exits, doors accessed only by his staff and any area that might be considered to have a weakness. He even “loaned” us four personnel from his department to assist us in our efforts.

Shortly after the event began, one of my Agents came to me and informed me that two of my employees were downstairs at the entrance. I immediately racked my brain trying to think how two agents would have arrrived at the venue.

The only reasonable explanation I could arrive at was that a couple of the guys who had been contacted, but who were not able to work had changed their schedules and were now reporting for duty. I went downstairs to thank them, but send them home.

One of the agents I had assigned to the front entrance of the venue pointed out two guys in suits as “my employees”. The problem was, I had never seen them before. I went over to the men and introduced myself. They appeared lost. They told me that they had been told to show up in suits and wait for a Limo. Apparently, the Limo would contain their Principal, whom they did not know.

As I walked away from them, I was questioned by one of the promoters who seemed anxious. I had to tell her that they were in no way connected with us, but that they claimed to be there to escort one of the celebrities. This left the promoter even more concerned, as this was “by invitation only”.

At that time the person in charge of the events for the venue came over. He too wanted to know who the men were and suggested that their presence may be a problem. My Agents kept a close eye on them and it eventually worked itself out when the Principal arrived and the “bodyguards” were told that this was the person they were hired to protect.

The “bodyguards” in this incident were so hopelessly lost and out of their element that it was not just glaringly obvious that they did not know what they were doing, but they actually had to be considered as a possible threat due to their inability to convince all concerned of their legitimacy.

I think we all know the moral of the story. Two words; Due Diligence. The least you can do before taking an assignment is to know who you are working for. No professional E.P. Agent should be so desperate for a night’s work that he/she would respond to a request to “show up in a suit” and wait at event for a limo.

If all you know about your “employer” is that he is somebody called “Bob”, shame on you. Don’t compalin when you don’t get paid, or you are involved in a Police investigation because you are working for an unlicensed company. What if Bob is a convicted Felon?

We won’t even go into the ethical dilemma of how it is possible to properly protect a Principal if you have no idea where the emergency evacuation route is, what threats are known to exist and the identity of other protectors who may be able to come to your assistance if needed.

Executive Protection is about Protection. A clown can take off his make-up and put on a suit. At the end of the day though, he’ll still be a clown – albeit a well dressed one.

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  1. BA says:

    An Excellently presented article, the world needs to know that there is an art and a science to protective services and all those who know neither the art nor the science of protection are definitely gambling with the lives of those ignorant clients that hire them. Plain and simple if you are not trained to be a protector then you can never work as one. Thanks John for sharing.

    Benjamin Alozie (Switzerland)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunatly this does happen rarely but if they did not know who they were protecting and they were not breifed on the venue ie fire escapes, safe rooms, who the other EP teams inside the venue were, they should have been walked through the venue like your team was john, the person /company who hired them should be taken to task
    for not giving these EP officers they hired the pertinant details of the client they were hired to protect, no registration number of the limo,or the make and model, but common sense dictates they should have been introduced to the client long before the detail was arranged, and a risk and threat assessment made, phone numbers of the clients driver obtained and stored in their cellphones,medical history of the client, medication the client is on ect.
    did the company check were the offices licences valid did the officers check the company licence was valid.

  3. John Sexton says:

    Thanks Benjamin. I just wish there was a forum where we could get through to the clients. If they did their due diligence and had more concern for their own safety, they would make better hiring decisions.

  4. John Sexton says:

    Anon, I believe the "company" was an off-duty law enforcement, who probably "knew somebody who knew somebody". When these part- timers with full time day jobs get involved, they do not have the same dedication as those of us who depend on these assignments to feed our families. It is merely extra pocket money for them and 99%of them don't bother with licensing, registartion, insurance, workman's comp., or paying taxes.

  5. lynne j says:

    Oh how often this is has happened. The biggest problem we have in the UK is the constant undercutting of tasks by solo operators who "put a team together". These solo operators , even if expereinced CPO's (EP's)are often uninsured for team operations, do not have the financial backing to pay their operatives before the client pays, have no back office support, have cut the price so tight they have not done recces/Warning Orders/Briefs etc, have poor or little comms to cover a team ( and haven't done comms checks) etc etc.

    Yet in some way it is a client problem also. Maybe it's me, but either you need protection or you don't. Why have a CPO/Protection team if there is no threat to you? If there IS a threat why on earth keep looking for the cheapest option? I know if my life was in danger or had a serious commercial threat to my business my question would be "who is the best?" and like any service I procure I would take advice from someone who knows.

    It is so frustrating seeing top contacts going to groups of souped up doormen, amateurs and even unlicenced operators. I shake my head and wonder "how on earth did they get that contract"

    There was a task recently that one of my regular operators was working on for another organisation. It involved a massive international financial organisation and this operator had been asked to be one of the TL's on the task. There were no WO's, no briefs or debriefs carried out, he was told to stand in a corridor by the Operations Manager who promptly disappeared. At the end of the day,the TL had no releif, had looked after a corridor for a whole day and at the end of the day the OM said "oh forgot about you – who are you" to which the reply was "I was your TL don't you remember?….." This job would have cost the client for one day about $30,000 and there were no floor plans, recce or paperwork done in advance. Oh and only enough comms for about a 1/3rd of the teams. Yet the client was blissfully unaware because there were no incidents and would use the same organiation again!

    There seems to be little understanding, away from hostile environments, of the work we do and how we educate the clients is going to be a long lsow road.

  6. Anonymous says:


    All of what you said is accurate. For years this stuff bothered me. Nearly all security companies in the L.A. area were slapping "bodyguards" into their line-up to capture accounts of celebs. As frustrating as this is it is simply a "bottom line" business and, in most cases, always will be.

    I worked for and managed details for a number of the highest profile celebs. For the most part all of my detail members sent to me by the company were poorly qualified and needed the most basic of training just to get by. The clients literally have no clue what they are getting and most are satisfied with what they get.

    I could go on forever sharing stories of what I had to work with but that would novel a small novel.

    I did a friend request on your FB if you're interested in knowing who I am.

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