Personal Protection for Religious Leaders and Dignitaries: Developing a Climate of Trust and Confidence…


Personal Protection for Religious Leaders and Dignitaries presents some very unique challenges. The vocation and calling of many high profile leaders often requires them to have frequent interaction with the public. The security detail members that are familiar and sensitized to the spiritual and emotional climate of the environment will be in a better position and prepared to deal with the challenges.

The personalities and idiosyncrasies of the (principal, protectee)play an enormous role into the ebbs and flows of the protective detail. If we are uncertain of our ability to choreograph within this sometimes unpredictable and highly emotional charged environment we will find ourselves overwhelmed, jittery and frustrated. Our confidence will most certainly wane and impact our ability to provide the proper service for our client.

The ability to blend into the environment requires more than one’s dress attire and professional demeanor, blending requires an innate ability to interact with many people, some who are emotionally needy and others who possess some strong individualistic beliefs. There are some extremely intense encounters and will require an abundance of patience, tact and strength for the detail member.

A Jittery and Frustrated Practitioner:

We must be careful of not overreacting and acting out inappropriately to a non-threatening situation. Some protective members have prematurely advised their principal about non-essential situations, which only creates anxiety, frustration and may reveal the need for further training. Sometimes protective detail members have prematurely removed their principal from a non-threatening situation; this can foster distrust in the relationship and cause the client to lose confidence in the protector’s ability to handle matters professionally. Although there are moments when informing or providing cover and evacuating is deemed totally appropriate.

An understanding of key aspects such as behavioral nuances and leakage are essential towards our success, this will enable the practitioner to respond proactively. Equally important is combining these talents with a background in threat analysis. Threat assessments and threatening behavior must be identified early and evaluated before we can implement skillful and tactful interventions.

The Importance of Threat Assessments and Behavioral Analysis:

Personal Protection and Threat Assessments:

“There is a distinct difference between those who make a threat or those who pose a threat.”

There are several practitioners in the industry who are tasked with the responsibility of conducting a thorough threat assessment. These professionals have a clear understanding and knowledge of the basics and processes that are necessary to complete a thorough threat assessment and implement sound interventions. Sadly; there are too many who endeavor the task of handling threatening communication and threatening behavior that possess little understanding and knowledge of the basics and processes.

“Experience and training is necessary to determine the credibility of the threat itself”

The threat assessment process is essential to the successful practitioner and will assist in reducing unnecessary panic and the expenditure of unnecessary resources. All threats should and must be taking seriously, but not every threat is deemed credible and in fact some are indeed a hoax. Matters become more and more complicated when untrained and inexperienced professionals overreact and /or respond inappropriately to the communicated threat and/ or threatening behavior.

All threats should be properly assessed and evaluated to determine if there is any credibility to the communication or behavior. Threats classifications are placed upon a continuum which tends to range from – No Identified Risk to Extreme Risk. Keep in mind the continuum is fluid as the threat fluctuates.

7 Primary Factors when undertaking a Threat Assessment:

1. Is there anger, rage or frustration in the communication

2. Evidence of personalization

3. Specificity of threat

4. Does author have the technical knowledge to carry out the threatened actions

5. Does the author possess a strong commitment to the cause

6. Do ancillary incidents occur at the same time as the threatening communication

7. Escalation in communication increased frequency

Consider Developing and…

  • Identifying a member of the security detail to be responsible for interviewing and evaluating threats, letter writers, unusual interest from fans, etc.
  • Task that person to gather facts, track investigation and make final assessments
  • Provide for behavioral training for the designated staff member who is tasked with this responsibility

Behavioral Training is Key to Our Overall Success:

Behavioral-based training and practical experience handling numerous and diverse cases will be quite helpful in our profession. Occasionally the security professional may learn of someone who demonstrates an unusual interest in your protectee (principal), or you may encounter an emotionally disturbed person.

A practitioner who is well rehearsed in behavioral analysis will have an advantage in identifying many of these individuals well in advance and can properly assess the situation without ever breaching that sensitive inner layer of protection. When deemed necessary, the trained security professional will also know how to use creativity when implementing the appropriate interventions.

The complexity of the environment is further challenging due to the fact that there are persons we encounter who are sometimes delusional and need to be handled accordingly. Delusional – based stalkers are not uncommon and will occasionally arise from the crowd and begin their own stalking campaign. Therefore a team member who is adequately trained in aberrant behavior will be much better prepared to intervene in such instances.

Bring it all Together:

A personal protection practitioner with a strong background in behavioral analysis and conducting threat assessments will be a highly valued asset for any client. A protector who is trained and experienced in the behavioral aspects will be highly effective in the tactical and practical applications. A protector who has his tactical techniques together but lacks behavioral insights will more likely overreact or act out inappropriately. Some protectors will remain inactive due to the lack of behavioral sensitivities. There are situations that are just on the fringe that may suddenly escalate, while early intervention may have quelled the situation. Unpleasant and embarrassing scenarios happen to most professional protectors, but are less frequent when we are sensitized to the nuances and leakage aspects of behavior.

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Welcome to the Executive Protection Blog, brought to you by the Executive Protection Institute. You may have noticed our new look with our recently updated website, and we hope to engage with more of you through use of this site as well. 2016 has brought new courses and opportunities to EPI and we hope to continue leading the Protection Industry with quality programs designed to educate those providing executive protection services.