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Protecting the Brand As an EP Agent

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Matt Mills
Matt Mills
Matt Mills is the founder of Performance Disciplines. Matt’s professional history has been devoted to service, with 15 years spent between protective services and the United States Marine Corps. During this time Matt was actively training in variety of martial arts and eventually found his passion with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, he received his BJJ black belt from Eric Acha in 2023. Matt’s coaching philosophy emphasizes deep understanding of concepts, principals, strategies, and tactics.

The safety, well-being, and reputation of the principal are the primary concerns of any good Executive Protection Program. Filled with routine, our days revolve around the principal’s schedule, from early wake-ups to meticulous planning and execution. Generally, working in North America as an EP agent is a low-threat environment, and often our days go exactly as we planned.

But what happens when things don’t go as planned?

What would be the result if the team is tested today? 

Does the team have the capability to de-escalate violent or potentially violent encounters and deliver the outcomes desired to protect brand reputation?

To me, one of the better examples of professional de-escalation in executive protection is by Pascal Duvier in 2016 when he was protecting Kim Kardashian in Paris. Serial prankster Vitalii Sediuk tried assaulting Kardashian as she exited her vehicle, Pascal picked up on the aggressive behavior, executed a takedown, and pinned him in place.

Then he went straight into communicating with the prankster, “Are you ok? What are you doing?” Then Pascal released him and resumed his duties. It is worth noting that this video has been viewed over 15 million times since it was uploaded.

In this video, we can see Kim Kardashian’s EP agent handle an aggressive prankster.  

Let’s break down this incident further.

  1. Threat was detected
  2. EP agent executed a takedown
  3. EP agent pins the aggressor 
  4. EP agent communicates with the aggressor
  5. EP agent releases the aggressor

This is an excellent example of professional de-escalation that provides the outcomes desired by our principles, security managers, and the public. The actions of this agent protect the brand.

The Impact on the Brand

In the age of smartphones and paparazzi, where bystanders are more likely to pull out their phones than lend a helping hand during a physical encounter, the potential for recordings to go viral is significant. This is particularly true if you’re a law enforcement officer, a public figure is involved, or the incident is particularly sensational. Our actions in these moments can have far-reaching consequences for the brand we represent.

In 2020 Pinkerton was hired to provide security for KUSA-TV, a local Denver news channel. During a protest, things got heated and the protester was shot by Matthew Dolof.

A Pinkerton subcontractor Matthew Dolof shot and killed a protester in Denver in 2020.

Dolloff was hired by KUSA-TV to protect a producer covering the October 10, 2020, ‘Patriot Muster’ demonstration and ‘BLM-Antifa Soup Drive’ counter-protest.

Dolof turned out to be unlicensed at the time, and should not have been performing his duties that day. This resulted in Pinkerton losing its ability to even conduct business in the state of Colorado for over a year and a half. The charges against Dolof were eventually dismissed, as they determined that he acted in self-defense. This incident had far-reaching effects on the client, the security companies involved, and the EP agent, causing many enduring consequences from a single event.

A well-executed defensive tactics program becomes paramount, as it not only safeguards individuals but also protects the brand from the negative impacts of mishandled situations. Like it or not, we will be judged by public opinion and perception is reality.

The Role of Communication

When I imagine myself getting in a physical encounter on behalf of the principal, the desired outcome I have is that the video of the incident is:

  1. That I do the right things
  2. That I communicate in a relaxed and controlled manner
  3. It looks boring

Let’s revisit the video of Kim Kardashian’s EP agent. What shines through to me, is the agent’s ability to communicate with empathy. After executing a takedown, he pinned the aggressor and initiated a conversation. 

His words ‘Are you ok? What are you doing?’ not only demonstrated control but also conveyed a genuine concern for the individual’s well-being. This empathetic connection contributed significantly to the de-escalation process. It serves as a reminder that effective communication isn’t just about relaying information; it’s about understanding and empathizing, especially in high-stress situations. 

This video had many positive comments, the efforts Pascal went to in order to de-escalate the situation did not go unnoticed. Below is just one of many comments commending his efforts.

ep agent
Screenshot of YouTube Comment

We can see how the body language of the aggressor went from dominant, to submissive very quickly. Clear concise communication during this phase is critical as we need to communicate with: our team, law enforcement, and the aggressor themself. 

It is readily apparent to anyone rational who watches the video that this agent is showing tremendous restraint, this prankster is in a very vulnerable position and his day could easily have been much worse. The agent’s connection with the aggressor creates de-escalation in this situation, he is pinned, and vulnerable and he knows it. The agent’s communication further de-escalates the situation and he quickly processes that this guy has changed their behavior and is no longer a threat.

The ability to communicate effectively under stress is an extremely important skill to cultivate. In order to achieve this you must be relaxed, to be relaxed in stressful situations you have to have sufficient skill. When skill is practiced it is intuitive, and will not require conscious effort to perform complex tasks. This allows us to free up some brain power for calm, effective, communication.

Countering The Dunning- Kruger Effect: Continuous Improvement and Training

When your job involves protecting human life, remaining a novice in defensive tactics may not be a luxury you can afford. The most basic function of Executive Protection is to prevent the principal from physical harm. Many fine martial arts can serve as the foundation for defensive tactics training. In my biased opinion, grappling is the best base to give us the outcomes desired by our principals, security directors, and the public.   

Be honest with yourself and self-assessment, if you do not train consistently, but have a high degree of confidence in your ability to perform under pressure you are likely experiencing the “Dunning Kruger effect”.

Ep agent and the Dunning Kruger effect

Novice Overconfidence

Essentially, you don’t know what you don’t know, but you think you do. Novices tend to overestimate their skills because they lack the experience to fully grasp the complexities of defensive tactics.

Unconscious Incompetence

In the initial stages, individuals might not even be aware of the gaps in their skills. This lack of awareness can lead to a false sense of competence, especially if they haven’t faced challenging situations.

Conscious Competence

On the flip side, those who are more skilled and experienced might underestimate their abilities. This happens because they’re acutely aware of the realities of violence and the nuances of defensive tactics, leading to a sense of self-doubt.

Journey to Mastery

As practitioners progress and gain more experience, they start recognizing the depth of defensive tactics and are able to refine their skills. This leads to a more accurate self-assessment, understanding the stages of competence is crucial as it highlights the need for continuous improvement in defensive tactics.

Wherever you are in your own personal journey, the best thing you can do is go train. Lucky for us, we live in a day and age where it’s as easy to find a reputable martial arts gym as it is to find a cup of coffee. 

At my company Performance Disciplines, our program focuses on grappling-based de-escalation training, this serves as the “North Star” for personal and team training. With components like low-impact takedowns, effective pins, and stress communication drills, we provide a comprehensive approach to achieving the desired outcomes.

Conclusion: Train with the desired outcome in mind

In Executive Protection, safeguarding the brand extends beyond physical prowess into a nuanced interplay of skill and communication. The analysis of Kim Kardashian’s EP agent showcases the role of professional de-escalation, a testament to the power of empathetic communication in protecting not just individuals but the brand itself.

In an age where viral recordings can make or break reputations, the story of Matthew Dolof underscores the lasting impact of mishandled situations on both clients and security entities. Effective communication is the linchpin for professional de-escalation, shifting the dynamics from potential crisis to controlled resolution.

As we all navigate the ever-evolving landscape of Executive Protection, the call to action resounds: Go train and commit to the mastery that safeguards not just individuals but the enduring success of the brand.

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