Role of Firearms in Executive Protection (Part 2)
By Overcoming Our Reliance on Firearms, We Can Improve our Executive Protection Strategies
In Part‑1 of this Two-Part series on the role of firearms in executive protection, James Hamilton explained how he had once (incorrectly) prioritized firearms in protection planning.
In Part‑2, he offers 3 Ways Protectors can better protect their clients by relying less on their firearms and more on effective protective strategies that actually work.
Per the above graphic, as discussed in Just 2 Seconds, Protectors who successfully safeguard their Protectee against an assassin or attacker, are either being (a) Projective — physically interfering with the attacker, or (b) Protective – covering the Protectee and evacuating him or her away from the threat.
That said, neutralizing the assassin or attacker is never more important than safeguarding the Protectee. In executive protection (EP), we have a single clear-cut mission and golden rule: Protect our client. Here are 3 Ways Protectors can better protect their clients by relying less on their firearms and more on what actually works:
1. Align your Training with your Mission
If you are involved in training Protectors for missions in the United States (and most other first-world countries) I challenge you to evaluate your current training program; specifically, the time you spend on firearms. If firearms involve the largest percentage of your training, then I encourage you to better align your curriculum with the realities of private sector close protection in the United States (as I described in Part 1).
Training Protectors in emergency medicine, communication techniques, protective advances, surveillance detection, and security driving are, I’d argue, more important for a Protectee’s safety than arming protectors. Consequently, these skill sets should command a higher percentage of your limited training time and budgets.
2. Before Drawing your Weapon, Evacuate your Protectee
I encourage executive protection instructors to ask their trainees with Law Enforcement (LE) backgrounds when they made the mental shift from identify and arrest (LE mission) to cover and evacuate (EP mission). If this shift has not occurred, I urge instructors to address the obvious differences in mission between LE and EP – and the resulting differences in the training that separates these two missions.
At our firm’s Essential Protection Skills (EPS) academy, there is a scenario where the trainee will fail when they reach for their firearm, yet, succeeds when they cover and evacuate the Protectee. (This scenario is especially beneficial for former LE officers who haven’t yet made the aforementioned mental shift to the EP mission.)
During this scenario, our trainees quickly learn that there just isn’t enough time to draw, aim, and engage an assailant in the time it takes the attacker to engage their Protectee. Instead, like Jerry Parr during the Reagan Assassination attempt, they must cover and evacuate their Protectee.
Unless we can detect a potential assassin early before the first bang, lunge, or scream, we will only have fractions of a second to save our Protectee’s life. What should we do in that second? Should we find the assassin, and then draw, aim, and fire our weapon (often into a crowd)? Or, like the armed Jerry Parr, should we cover and evacuate our protectee?
- Note: The beneficial use of firearms is far more likely at a protected site (residence, corporate office closed to the public, etc.), because the Moment of Recognition of an attack generally occurs much earlier than in public – especially in light of a properly designed early detection system (gates, cameras, beams, controlled access, etc.).
3. Choose “Protective” – A Private Sector Reality
Unlike the taxpayer-funded U.S. Secret Service, Department of State, and FBI — along with the hundreds of Mayoral and Governor protection details across the country — manpower in private sector security is often more limited due to the client’s budget and tolerance for protective coverage.
Consequently, many private sector Protectors can find themselves on single-man assignments. If you are operating alone, I encourage you to mentally and physically position yourself towards the [aforementioned] “Protective” component of close protection. By covering the Protectee and evacuating him or her away from the threat, versus confronting the attacker, you are better fulfilling your primary mission when under attack – moving the Protectee off the X.
- Note: For all scheduled public appearances, GDBA ensures our clients receive a multi-man protective detail. We do this for numerous reasons, including the necessity of advancing locations, covering vehicle docking points, and providing on-stage protection during these scheduled public appearances.
Conclusion – Fractions of a Second
As an instructor, I’m not only a teacher, I’m a lifelong student. As such, I challenge my long held beliefs by considering all the evidence, plus my own empirical experiences and the experiences of trusted colleagues, when choosing the protection methods I teach Protectors.
Through my nearly 30 years of protecting human life and studying and teaching the executive protection mission, I’ve reached this conclusion: A Protector’s overreliance on their firearm can potentially endanger their Protectee’s life.
By going for their gun first, Protectors can delay the crucial seconds, or fractions of a second, offered between their Moment of Recognition (knowing an attack is underway) and saving their Protectee’s life.
By designing training curriculums that resemble the realities of our mission, we can better teach new Protectors the best methods for protecting human life. As Jerry Parr and his fellow Secret Service agents proved on March 30, 1981 – fractions of seconds matter.
James Hamilton is a Senior Vice President at Gavin de Becker & Associates. James served 17 years as a Special Agent and Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI, where he was handpicked to create the Bureau’s close protection course. His courses are currently taught at the NSA, NYPD, and many other agencies.
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