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The American Approach to Executive Protection: Trends and Threats

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In this interview, we delve into the world of executive protection with J Damien Scott, COO of Bedrock Special Projects. As a leading expert in the field, Damien shares insights into the services in demand and the evolving landscape of EP in the United States. We explore the unique characteristics of the American approach to executive protection, examine regional differences, and discuss the impact of global events on the industry.  

Join us as we uncover the strategies and tactics employed by professionals dedicated to safeguarding high-profile individuals and corporations. 

Bedrock Special Projects provides services both internationally and inside the United States. In terms of local coverage, the company has several offices in different states in the country. Can you tell us what different services are in demand? Is there a difference in trends or threats from state to state? 

Residential Security – This involves ensuring the safety of private homes, properties, and residential communities. This is consistently in demand across all states, especially in densely populated areas and high net worth neighborhoods. 

Mobile Concierge Protection Teams & Travel Management – These services are usually in higher demand in states with a significant number of corporate headquarters, celebrities, or high-profile individuals. They involve providing personal protection during travel, managing travel logistics, ensuring safety during transit, etc. 

Protective Intelligence – This refers to gathering and analyzing information to prevent potential threats. It’s on the rise due to the growing complexity of security risks. It’s particularly essential for businesses, critical infrastructures, and individuals at risk. 

Technical Surveillance Countermeasures (TSCM) – TSCM is about detecting and mitigating threats from surveillance devices. It’s crucial for businesses and individuals dealing with sensitive information. The demand is increasing due to the rise in technology-based threats and easy access to effective surveillance devices. 

Cyber Defense – With the growing number of cyber threats, cyber defense services are rapidly in demand in all states, especially those with significant tech industry presence or corporate headquarters. 

Trends and Threats from State to State

Different states may have varying trends and threats based on their specific economic activities, population, culture, and other factors. For instance: 

States with a high concentration of tech companies, like California or Washington, might see a higher demand for cyber defense and protective intelligence services due to the prevalence of tech-related threats. 

States with more high-profile individuals or corporate headquarters, such as New York or California, might have a higher need for mobile concierge protection teams and travel management. 

States with significant international business or diplomatic activities might require more protective intelligence services and secure transportation solutions 

In states with a higher crime rate, residential security services might be in higher demand. 

The American Approach to Executive Protection
The American Approach to Executive Protection: Trends and Threats

The company recently opened an office in Florida. According to statistics, the Sunshine State’s total crime volume has been dropping in recent years, and wealthy individuals are moving there four times the rate of any other state. How does this relate to the type of services that are in demand in Florida? 

Given the context provided, the type of services in demand in Florida might be influenced by several factors. 

Rapid Population Growth: The rapid population growth, especially of wealthy individuals, creates new opportunities and challenges for security service providers. As the population increases, the sheer volume of potential criminal activity could rise, even if the crime rate (crime per capita) is falling. Therefore, a heightened demand for comprehensive security services is expected to ensure the safety of the new residents. 

Demand for Concierge Security Services: As wealthy individuals often demand high-quality, personalized services, there would likely be a significant demand for concierge security services. These services provide a personalized approach to security, often including 24/7 dedicated security personnel, integrated home security systems, and personal protection services. 

Travel Management and Mobile Protection: Given the influx of wealthy individuals who often have extensive travel needs, mobile concierge protection teams and travel management services would likely be in high demand. This would include personal protection during travel and management of travel logistics to ensure safety during transit. 

Residential Security: As more wealthy individuals move into Florida, the demand for high-level residential security is likely to increase. This could involve both physical security measures like security personnel and technological solutions like advanced surveillance systems and alarms. 

Protective Intelligence and Cyber Defense: Wealthy individuals and corporations are often more exposed to complex threats, including cyber threats and targeted criminal activity. Therefore, services like protective intelligence, which helps anticipate and mitigate such threats, and cyber defense, which protects against online threats, would likely be important. 

In conclusion, while overall crime rates might be dropping in Florida, the nature of the population moving in and their specific demands and threat exposure likely mean a high demand for personalized, comprehensive, and high-quality security services. 

In your opinion, is there such a thing as a US methodology when it comes to providing executive protection and risk management services? Is there a uniquely American practice and what are its characteristics?  

Yes, there indeed exist regional differences in the methodologies of providing executive protection and risk management services, reflecting the cultural, legal, and societal nuances of different parts of the world. These differences are not strict rules, but rather general tendencies influenced by various factors. 

The “American” approach to executive protection is often seen as more overt and high-profile. This is influenced by several factors: 

  • Secret Service Influence – The United States Secret Service, which provides protection to the nation’s highest officials, has developed a distinct, high-visibility protective methodology. This style has influenced many American private security firms, leading to an emphasis on a visible deterrent. 
  • Litigation Concerns – The United States has a highly litigious society, which may prompt security providers to adopt more visible protection measures to clearly demonstrate their efforts to mitigate risk. 
  • Cultural Factors – American society often places a high value on power and status displays, which can translate into a preference for more visible protection. 

In contrast, the European approach to executive protection tends to be more discreet and sophisticated. This reflects several factors: 

  • Privacy Considerations – European society often places a high value on privacy, leading to a preference for less visible, more discreet security measures. 
  • Legal Factors – In some European countries, the laws around personal protection, firearms, and surveillance are stricter, which can necessitate a more covert approach to protection. 
  • Cultural Factors – There may be less cultural emphasis on overt displays of power and status, leading to a preference for a lower-key approach to protection. 

Given these differences, it’s understandable that you might find the European approach more suitable for ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWI). A more discreet approach might align better with the desires for privacy and normalcy that many UHNWIs have, while still providing comprehensive security. 

It’s also worth noting that a competent security provider should be able to adapt their methodology to the specific needs and preferences of their clients, regardless of the region in which they operate. So, while there are general tendencies in different regions, there is considerable variability within those regions as well. 

Based on your experience providing executive protection services in both Europe and the USA, what are the main differences you have observed in the level and nature of threats in these regions? How do these differences impact team processes?  

The level and nature of threats in Europe and the USA can vary significantly due to a range of factors, including political climate, social issues, crime rates, and terrorist activity. The following is a general comparison. 

Nature of Threats 

  • USA – In the USA, executive protection services often prioritize threats such as street crime, domestic terrorism, and, increasingly, cybercrime. In some areas, the risk of gun violence is also a significant factor. 
  • Europe – Europe’s threat landscape tends to focus more on international terrorism, civil unrest, and in certain regions, organized crime. Cybersecurity is also a growing concern. 

Level of Threats

  • USA – The level of threat can vary significantly depending on the location within the USA. Urban areas and politically divisive regions may pose a higher risk. 
  • Europe – Similarly, in Europe, the threat level can vary widely depending on the specific country or region. Areas with high levels of civil unrest or significant terrorist activity pose a higher risk. 

These differences in threat landscapes can significantly impact the processes employed by executive protection teams: 

Risk Assessment – Teams in the USA might focus more on assessing the risk of street crime or domestic terrorism, while teams in Europe might pay more attention to international terrorism or civil unrest. The specific areas of focus in a risk assessment will impact the protective measures put in place. 

Training and Skills – Executive protection agents in the USA might receive more training on handling firearms due to the country’s gun laws, while agents in Europe might receive more training on de-escalation techniques and covert operations due to stricter gun control. 

Advance Work – The nature of advance work – preparation done before the principal arrives at a location, can also vary. For example, in Europe, with its diverse array of cultures and languages, advance work might involve more thorough research on local customs and regulations. 

Threat Response – Teams in the USA might be more prepared to respond to immediate, direct threats due to the higher prevalence of street crime and gun violence. In contrast, teams in Europe might be more equipped to handle threats of civil unrest or international terrorism. 

Cybersecurity – Given the global rise in cyber threats, both regions place a strong emphasis on cybersecurity. However, the specific threats, such as domestic versus international cybercrime, might vary, affecting the preventive measures taken. 

Remember, these are broad generalizations, and the exact nature and level of threats can vary widely within each region. Furthermore, a professional executive protection team should be able to adapt to changing threat landscapes and the specific needs of their principal. 

Can you provide specific examples of the differences in regulations and restrictions on equipment that executive protection personnel must comply with when providing services in Europe versus the USA. How do these differences impact the approach and tactics used by your team? 

Here are some specific examples. 

Firearms: 

  • USA – In the United States, private security personnel can carry firearms in most states, although the specific requirements for training, licensing, and permits can vary by state. Some states may also have restrictions on the type of firearms and ammunition that can be carried. 
  • Europe – In Europe, the rules around carrying firearms are generally much stricter. In most countries, private security personnel are not allowed to carry firearms. Even in countries where it is allowed, the requirements for obtaining a license can be very stringent. 

Surveillance Equipment: 

  • USA – The use of surveillance equipment by private security is generally permitted in the United States, although there are restrictions to protect individuals’ privacy rights. For example, it’s typically illegal to record conversations without the consent of at least one party. 
  • Europe – In Europe, privacy laws are typically stricter, and the use of surveillance equipment by private security can be heavily regulated. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) imposes strict rules on data collection and use. 

Less-Lethal Weapons: 

  • USA – In the United States, private security personnel can typically carry less-lethal weapons like pepper spray, batons, and stun guns, although specific rules can vary by state. 
  • Europe – In Europe, the regulations around less-lethal weapons can vary widely by country. In some countries, carrying items like pepper spray and batons is prohibited, while in others, it is allowed with the proper training and licensing. 

These differences in regulations can significantly impact the approach and tactics used by executive protection teams: 

Firearms Training – Given the difference in gun laws, executive protection personnel in the USA may receive more extensive firearms training, while personnel in Europe may focus more on unarmed combat and de-escalation techniques. 

Use of Surveillance – The stricter privacy laws in Europe may mean that European executive protection teams rely less on surveillance and more on physical presence and situational awareness. 

Response to Threats – Executive protection teams in the USA may be more prepared to respond to immediate, direct threats with force due to the ability to carry firearms and less-lethal weapons. In contrast, teams in Europe might be more equipped to handle threats through avoidance, de-escalation, and evasion. 

Planning and Logistics – Due to varying regulations, executive protection teams must be diligent in understanding and adhering to the local laws when traveling or operating in different regions. This can impact planning, logistics, and operations. 

Please note that these are broad generalizations, and the exact rules and regulations can vary widely within each region. Always consult with a legal expert or local authority for accurate information. 

American Approach to Executive Protection
The American Approach to Executive Protection: Trends and Threats

Finally, let us look towards the immediate future. How will global events influence the executive protection industry in the United States? What if any changes or trends can we expect to see in 2023? 

I expect to see some or all of the following:  

Global Health Concerns – In light of global health concerns, executive protection services may increasingly incorporate health safety measures. This could involve planning for safe travel routes, arranging private transportation, ensuring access to medical services, having emergency medical personnel integrated into the teams, and more. 

Cybersecurity and TSCM Focus – As global cyber threats continue to rise, there will likely be an increased focus on cybersecurity within the executive protection industry. This might involve providing cyber threat intelligence, securing communication methods, and training principals on cybersecurity best practices. 

Global Political Climate – Changes in the global political landscape can directly impact the executive protection industry. Rising tensions, increased terrorism threats, or civil unrest in certain regions can change risk assessments and travel plans. 

Integration of Services – As you mentioned, there seems to be a trend towards smaller, more compact teams that can provide a range of integrated services. This shift might be driven by advances in technology, a desire for more efficient and personalized service, and the changing threat landscape. 

Lower-Profile Operations – There could be a move towards more covert, lower-profile protection methods, driven by the desire for privacy and normalcy among principals and the effectiveness of these methods in certain situations. This might involve using unmarked vehicles, plainclothes security personnel, and advanced planning to avoid threats rather than confront them. 

Increased Use of Protective Intelligence – The use of protective intelligence – gathering and analyzing information to prevent potential threats – is likely to increase. This approach allows for proactive security measures and can be more efficient and less disruptive than reactive measures. 

Emphasis on Training – With the move towards smaller, more integrated teams, there might be a greater emphasis on cross-training protection personnel so they can handle a range of tasks. This could involve training in areas like emergency medical response, cybersecurity, and threat assessment. 

Diversity and Inclusion – There might be an increased focus on diversity and inclusion in the industry, both to meet societal expectations and to provide a broader range of perspectives and skills within protection teams. 

Every client is different, and the protection measures will continue to reflect their unique needs, concerns, politics, and culture. 

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