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Navigating the Complex World of Political Campaign Security with Chuck Tobin

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In the high-stakes arena of political campaign security, few individuals have amassed the level of experience and expertise that Chuck Tobin has. With a distinguished career as the Director of Security and Senior Consultant to three Prime Ministers and Presidential Candidates, Chuck Tobin’s insights into the unique challenges of political security are invaluable.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the intricate world of safeguarding political figures, contrasting it with executive security for private clients and exploring cutting-edge technological tools. Chuck Tobin also offers a glimpse into the most pressing issues and trends that the close protection community should collectively address during the 2023 Close Protection Conference.

As the Director of Security and Senior Consultant to three Prime Ministers and Presidential Candidates, you have quite an impressive experience in political campaign security. What are the main challenges in political campaign security, and how do they differ from executive protection for a private, non-political client?  

There are many differences between executive protection for private, non-political clients and political campaigns. First and foremost is the nature of politics. Political campaigns are emotionally charged, which drives anger and hate towards the candidate, often manifesting in targeted threats.

When speaking specifically about political campaigns, we also add the generally short window associated with these campaigns. In the U.S., they may last up to two years, but internationally, the campaigns are much shorter, sometimes ending in a few months.

Campaigns are already focused on dedicated funding for grassroots campaigning, which reduces the available budget, adding the short window of the campaign increases vulnerabilities associated with a lack of infrastructure. It is much like producing a movie with a quickly stood-up campaign team but adding tons of publicity and public events.

The candidate must have contact with their constituents, showing they are accessible while also comforting voters that they can provide a secure society. There is often a debate about the visibility of security around the candidate. If political campaign security is too heavy, it may leave the impression that the candidate doesn’t feel safe in society. The presence of security may work for the benefit of a candidate running against an incumbent who has failed to provide a safe culture.

What are some of the cutting-edge technological tools and solutions that you find most valuable in enhancing the safety and security of your clients, and how do you stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in this area?

In recent years, extensive focus has been placed on Open-Source Intelligence products. They have become more commonplace and significantly advanced in recent years. At the same time, many other technological tools enhance communications, tactics, and planning that have evolved. The best way to stay on top of what tools are trending is to participate in conferences such as the Close Protection Conference, where you can participate in training, visit vendors, and network with your peers. Outside of the conference and various seminars offered in our community, there are some great posts on Social Media from other protectors focused on technologies.

As a participant in “The 2023 Close Protection Conference,” what are the most pressing issues or trends in executive protection that you believe the industry should collectively address during this event, and what insights or solutions do you hope to contribute to these discussions? 

As a professional community, we finally see a collective mindset that desires to raise the bar. This is a massive transformation on a global scale. It will require local, regional, and international providers to come together to continue a challenging dialogue around the branding of our community and how to best mitigate risks to those we protect. There is no doubt that this transformation will take some time and likely come with hurdles, but in the end, I genuinely believe that the global close protection community will come together to focus on doing the right thing.

Close protection is a complex practice, and while many perceive the work we do as single-faceted, the body person, truly complex protective operations are essential to providing holistic protection.

Educating our global community, followed by our consumers, is no easy task. The Close Protection Conference presents an excellent opportunity for this international community to meet, discuss barriers impeding program maturity, and identify collective solutions based on the experiences of others. Having attended and participated in this event for several years, I try to network as much as possible while taking advantage of the educational sessions. Following that Bruce Lee mindset, there is always a nugget of gold that I can gather from the experiences of others. Then, I can take those lessons learned and improve the quality and capabilities of my organization. This doesn’t happen online and on Social Media sites, it needs to happen in person, where trust is built, and long-term relationships are made.

Outside of the convergence of our community, Digital Executive Protection (DEP) and capably assessing targeted threats are trends that continue to capture the attention of the protective community.

Bringing the digital and physical realms together to create a secure environment for the protected is not just a concept but a critical element in modern-day defensive operations.

Moving a principle from one protected space to another doesn’t protect them, their assets, and their reputation in today’s digital world. Understanding how to apply device security, safeguarded information security, and systems security to your protective program can mitigate many threats.

The advancement of the investigation, assessment, and management of persons or groups of concern has also moved quickly in the past few decades. We have moved beyond simple situational assessments and now need to recognize early warning signs of an individual who may express an ideation of violence. Understanding how to deploy mitigation strategies behind the curtain can reduce the necessity for the close protection agent to be reactive to targeted violence.

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