So You Want To Hire A Bodyguard?
By Dr. H.H.A. Cooper
"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that is wise hearkeneth unto counsels." Proverbs 12:15
It is said, in somewhat bowdlerized form, that the lawyer who chooses to represent himself in a law suit has a fool for a client. The great Spanish philosopher, Ortega Y Gasset observed that the difference between a fool and a knave is that the knave does take a rest sometimes. It never ceases to amaze how foolish are the otherwise most sagacious and successful among us when it comes to hiring those entrusted with their personal security. They seem, at such times, to be affected by a kind of myopia that borders upon denial. It is rather like the disinclination of some to make a last will and testament out of a kind of superstitious fear of acknowledging the inevitability of death. The serious among us, once these fears have been overcome, will usually seek competent counsel to make sure that their wishes are properly formulated so as to be reasonably certain that they are acted upon after the desired fashion when they are no longer around, themselves, to attend to matters. Generally speaking, it is those who have something worthwhile to leave behind who are most anxious to make sure their worldly goods do not fall into the wrong hands. Yet, how many of these take action, in the matters of personal protection that might well risk their departing this life more speedily than they might have wished? So.....?
Personal Protection does not come cheap. Those who can afford it, very often do not need it, while those who need it the most, all too often, cannot afford it. If you do need it, and can afford it, it is axiomatic that you had better acquire the genuine article, something truly adapted to your needs. Why hire a butler with a gun, who might be hesitant or reluctant in its use when called upon to do so? When you hire a personal protection specialist, you are placing your life in that individual's hands. It behooves you to make a wise choice - especially if you hope to live not to regret it. You may be a genius on Wall Street yet an ignoramus when it comes to reading people rather than numbers. You are a fool when you read people as numbers. Again, you may be very good at hiring the right kind of staff to assist you in the business in which you ordinarily engage. You know how to engage the services of good accountants and lawyers and know how to avoid shysters of either profession. In your personal life, you know how to avoid quacks in the medical profession and snake oil vendors of all types. It is easy, then, to assume that these sterling qualities of judgment will serve you in the matter of safeguarding your physical integrity and that of your nearest and dearest. Don't count on it. And why not?
Bodyguards have been around, seemingly, since the Dawn of Mankind. The Chaldean chronicles contain an intriguing reference to one Enkidu, who served as a personal protection specialist for the celebrated traveler, Gilgamesh. Kings, princes, presidents and captains of commerce and industry have, since that time, availed themselves of the services of such as might stand between them and the jaws of death. Basically, this is a very wise idea. But the road to Hell is, as we are told, paved with the best of intentions. Over the centuries, how many of the Rich and Famous have come to an untimely demise at the hands of those who, supposedly, were there to protect them, or who were clandestine participants in some "palace intrigue." A propensity for subversion is, all too often, more dangerous than the rankest incompetence. Yet, who are you to judge in these matters? And, if you cannot trust your own judgment in these delicate affairs, to whom can you safely entrust such a grave responsibility? It is in this department that the matter most usually goes seriously awry. The job is all too often given to those whose skills and experience have been developed in the selection of persons for other tasks and responsibilities. Even in our dangerous world, hiring personal protection specialists is not an everyday matter. It is easy for those entrusted with procurement to believe that hiring a bodyguard is no different from signing on a confidential, executive secretary or a chauffeur. Wrong!
Hiring a personal protection specialist is not a job for the run-of-the-mill human resources department, unaided. Sadly, the great American world of business, that functions so well in other ways, is often plagued by a kind of internecire warfare between Directors of Security on the one hand and Directors of Human Resources on the other. This is decidedly unhealthy. Trials of strength serve no purpose save to weaken the organization and frustrate the selection process. There is an unfortunate kind of hubris at work in these turf battles that needs to be addressed at the highest of levels. Oftimes, the struggle is mediated by others in the hierarchy who are, themselves, no better equipped to appreciate or address the substantive and procedural issues involved. You do not buy personal protection specialists off the peg, however attractive their appearance to the untutored eye. We are dealing, putatively, with matters of life and death, here. Those choosing personnel to undertake these onerous, demanding, sometimes dangerous tasks have a heavy responsibility to discharge. There is a lot more to all this than being able to write a good job description and carry out a conscientious and thorough background check. Would that even these necessary steps were satisfactorily taken.
The selection of personal protection specialists is not a job for ordinary headhunters or other business consultants. You may be very good at finding, and recommending a CEO for a Fortune 100 Company yet utterly clueless about acquiring the services of a bodyguard to protect him and his family once he is in place. There is a simple principle at the bottom of all this: you do not hire even the best optometrist to perform brain surgery. In this, as in other matters, take the appropriate advice - and act upon it. Why keep a dog and bark yourself. Just make sure you don't buy a basenji. Again, only a fool would substitute his or her own judgment for that of a carefully selected, experienced professional. A note of caution is introduced at this juncture. It is rarely wise to purchase advice from one who has an interest, manifest or concealed, in the product or services being recommended. The unscrupulous have little hesitation in compromising in this regard. That is why the IRS insists, under penalties of law, on the independence of those who undertake to report upon the business needs of individuals claiming to deduct certain security related expenditures. Serious consequences can flow from making recommendations from which the individual making them can be seen to have personally benefited from the subsequent provision of the goods or services recommended. This is a Sword of Damocles changing over the heads of those who do not play by the rules. Good, honest consultants do not come cheap. But they are worth their weight in gold in the long run.
Providing personal protection is somewhat akin to bespoke tailoring: there is no one size fits all. A bodyguard who might be ideally suited to serve the needs of a highly visible celebrity entertainer might be woefully out of place in a low-key, corporate environment. Yet, in the abstract, there are basic similarities which all these positions enjoy in common. Perhaps the most important of these, and certainly, the most difficult to evaluate prospectively are integrity and a sense of commitment. If you develop a distaste for your principal, however well you conceal it, you are placing him or her, and perhaps yourself in jeopardy. It requires a singular kind of whole-heartedness to put yourself on the line for another on a daily basis. Being a bodyguard is not just another job. It is almost akin to a sacred trust. You have to believe wholeheartedly in what you are doing and why you are doing it. Providing personal protection demands an extraordinary degree of single-mindedness. It does not admit of a conflict of loyalties. Career advancement is a fine objective, but how can one trust the job-hopper in this super-delicate field of endeavor? The astute evaluator will always inquire, diligently, "Why did you leave your last situation?" The poignant historical precedent of the fearsome Mongol conqueror, Halagu comes to mind. Investing the ancient city of Baghdad, he received a secret representation from the Wazir, the Chief Minister to secure for him entrance to that place without resistance from the defending forces. He accepted the offer, and speedily took the city without bloodshed. Shortly thereafter, he had an audience with the new ruler. "I suppose," said he, "you have come to claim your reward?" The former Wazir humbly admitted that was indeed his purpose. "Take him out and hang him," commanded Halagu. "If you could thus betray your master," said he, "how could I be so foolish as not to consider that you might, in the future, not accord me a similar favor?"
Competence, the ability to do the assigned job, according to narrowly drawn specifications, can be measured by reference to objectively verifiable standards. This is not an unfamiliar task for those concerned, professionally, with the hiring process. But how, in this delicate field, does one assess the loyalty of a candidate who might be required to take a bullet for his or her prospective protectee? The past is the best, perhaps the only guide to the future. The assessment requires a most rigorous questioning of the job-seeker and a painstaking review and verification of the answers given. The process demands a certain expertise and experience, with, perhaps, a touch of cynicism throw in. Leopards are not known to change their spots. Those who have not demonstrated their loyalty in the past can hardly claim any high degree of credibility in the matter for the future. Present day employment practices tend to inhibit useful enquiry of others. They do not prohibit rigorous enquiry of the candidate, him or herself. The Halagu test is not recommended, here, though in our own times it seems to have served the present ruler of Iraq well enough in many departments. But there is no excuse for timidity or carelessness in these matters. Too much hangs upon them. Those who presume to offer counsel in these cases should carry out their obligations without fear or favor. There is always the possibility that they, too, might pay a heavy price for giving bad advice.
This piece is not addressed to the really great power-mongers of this world. These may be assigned, broadly to two classes for the present purposes. There are those who, like the president of the United States, ordinarily have little choice over those detailed, at any particular time, to protect them. And there are the Saddam Husseins, who deal sum marily and unpleasantly with those who give bad advice as well as those even remotely suspected of unfaithfulness or potential betrayal. Rather, it is for the instruction of those who, in our times, have a need for personal protection, expensive as it is, and who are concerned to get value for their money. We live in an age of kiss and tell, by word of mouth, on the Web or otherwise in print. This may suit the celebrity entertainer whose business includes more than just a little kissing, the telling of which can only serve to enhance an already powerful reputation. Captains of industry and commerce must view such possibilities in a different light. The revelation of some discreditable or embarrassing epi sode in the past can be very damaging when it comes time to merge or sell the company or make a public offering of its stock. Close protection means just that; the protector is close enough to see all that is going on. We cannot always rely upon the attitude of `so what' to protect us from our enemies waiting to take advantage of the failings or proclivities of those we have chosen to protect our persons.
Copyright © 2003, Executive Protection Institute