Executive protection's 'seven deadly sins'

Robert Oatman discusses avoiding common pitfalls at ASIS 2012


The world of executive protection is a uniquely personalized form of security. Protection professionals often develop personal relationships with the people they are charged with providing security for and while these relationships can be a positive force in that they help develop a level of trust between the protector and the protectee, it also opens the door to several pitfalls that security professionals have to avoid if they want to provide the best level of protection possible.

At the 2012 ASIS Seminar & Exhibits this week, Robert Oatman, president of Maryland-based executive protection firm R.L. Oatman & Associates discussed these fallacies in a session entitled "the seven deadly sins of executive protection." According to Oatman, everyone involved in executive protection can easily commit these "sins" given the nature of the job.

Among these sins include; carelessness; over-familiarity; impulsiveness; indecisiveness; inexperience; inattention to detail; and, pride. Here is a look at these seven deadly sins in more detail.

Carelessness

According to Oatman, carelessness occurs when protection agents don’t pay attention to details. Often times, Oatman says he hears people in the industry say “been there, done that.” However, if you haven’t performed a similar protection assignment in the same environment for any length of time, security circumstances could have changed substantially.

"Complacency can be a major derailer," he said. "Being on auto-pilot is really bad stuff. You need to be in control of the plane."

Oatman said that protection agents should avoid cutting corners, conduct a thorough advance and also perform a post operations review.

Over-familiarity

As trust grows between a protection professional and their principal, Oatman said this tends to lead to the favoritism of one particular protection agent. This can be problematic for several reasons, according to Oatman, including security professionals starting to think they are part of the principal’s entourage which can become addictive. This inevitably leads to tunnel vision and an inability to detect threats because the protection agent becomes woven into the fabric of the principal’s daily routine.

Impulsiveness

This can be one of the most dangerous pitfalls for protection professionals to fall into as it sometimes results in the use of excessive security measures. Oatman said protection agents have to avoid the natural tendency to go on the offensive. One thing that Oatman said helps in avoiding this executive protection sin is to actually go out into the field and change things up when it comes to protecting the principal, which could include varying routes taken to a particular location or the times at which they arrive and depart.

Indecisiveness

Being indecisive can put clients in unnecessarily compromising positions. The root of the problem, according to Oatman, usually stems from protection agents that have failed to do their homework on a particular assignment. This can lead to taking an action that isn’t needed or is perhaps over the top at the last minute.  "The second you freeze up or can’t figure out how to get out of hell’s kitchen, you’re probably not on-game," he said.

Inexperience

Oatman said that there is an abundance of this particular sin in the market currently. While organizations simply think they can bring in a military vet or a former police officer and think that they are covered from a protection standpoint, Oatman said that people hired as protection professionals need to have proper training in real world scenarios so that they know where they need to be and when they need to be there. "If you’re going to invest time and money (in an executive protection program), get the proper training," he added.

Inattention to Duty

With all of the modern distractions in our lives, such as smartphones and other forms of media, Oatman said that it’s easier to become distracted now than ever before. To properly provide executive security, however, protection agents have to pay attention at all times. "If you think executive protection is about multitasking, you’re probably in the wrong business," Oatman explained.

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