Executive Protection: Having – Wanting – Needing?
On November 22, 2013 the United States marked the 50th anniversary of the assignation of John F. Kennedy. 50 years later there still remain unanswered questions regarding the circumstances surrounding this event. Without a doubt this was one of the darkest moments in America’s history and certainly the Secret Service will have this cloud hang over them perhaps for as long as time exists. This Department of the United States Treasury has the sole responsibility for the protection of ‘POTUS’ or rather President of the United States. So when Kennedy was killed they failed, plain and simple. But like most things in life smaller and perhaps insignificant failures and alternative agendas and priorities usually lead to disasters and failures of such magnitude.
Enter December 9, 2013, and we have the home invasion and robbery of the Philip Davis the ‘Acting’ Prime Minister on Monday past. Perhaps this comparison may be seen as overreaching, but our chief executive officer was held up and robbed at gunpoint. If this does not equate to a potential disastrous impact on our country, then here in lies the problem with security as a whole; which is that we do understand our assets, thus we do not put in place adequate preventative and protection measures. Forget the fact that Prime Minister Christie was out of country, Mr. Davis, at that time was the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
These events in my opinion are an ‘F’ grade for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Security Intelligence Branch (SIB) charged with protection duties, and certainly the Commissioner of Police. No one likes a failing grade; it makes us uncomfortable and perhaps offended. Well get over it! Ego’s come and go but the Bahamas is here to stay and the office of the Prime Minister is too important a role to let personalities impact what is necessary. These temperaments, be they police or the individual holding the office must appreciate the significance of what they represent. It is not about what you like and what you want, it is about proactive security in a hostile and violent Bahamas. It is about protecting the reputation and sovereignty of a country. When we consider what could have happened, we thank God for these sometime painful lessons.
Never the less, this is crucial opportunity for the assessment process I mentioned in last week’s column, where I asked what is working and what is not. The police SIB should be doing an in-depth review of policy, practices, and procedures, which go way beyond more armed guards. Contrary to popular belief a man with a gun is not the end of it all. Kennedy’s assignation and the robbery of Davis, suggest that a well thought out personal protection or dignitary protection process requires trained and skilled personnel, not your everyday police officer. It demands standards and practices that cannot be overridden by personal agendas and preferences. Obama’s then White House Staff of 2009, may have suggest that he walk a few hundred feet during his first inauguration parade, but the Secret Service approved it and selected the exact location and time when he and his wife would get out of the car and when they would get back in.
When reviewing the events leading up to the tragic events of Kennedy’s death the Warren Commission revealed numerous laps in security and procedure. Everything from the route selection, position of protection agents to the vehicle used for the motorcade, exposed poor planning and even worst made the President a sitting duck. Regardless of who did what and authorized changes the burden of the failure lies in the hands of the Secret Service.
The question I am asking myself is, if the Prime Minister is seen as a possible target then what of presidents and CEO of local business. Is the assumption that because these persons are seen driving fancy cars and out to dinner at high end restaurants, suggest they have cash on them or access to the same. Perhaps a closer inspection is now also required by the corporate security manager who is charged with the responsibility of protecting the companies Chief Executive Officer in a now clearly violent Bahamas.
Some suggestions have already been alluded to in this article for example the fact a senior member of government was assaulted indicates the climate which we now live in, and demands a review of your current protection program. Also, the fact that the person assigned to protection duties must be able to do more than fight and shoot a gun. They must be intelligent, know first aid and be an excellent communicator.
A real question to ask yourself is, are you gambling with the safety of your president, have you considered what possible events exists and what mitigation strategies are in place. Really and truly, every attack cannot not be stopped, but a proper preparation and response plan will ensure that in many instances simple yet effective recovery options are available. For example what are phone numbers of your principal’s best friend or neighbor, or what is their blood type, do they have allergies? What about GPS Tracking or worst case scenario can you evacuate you president or managing director and family out of the country at a moment’s notice.
Next to individual preference and dislikes by the executive member, is the cost involved in implementing and managing a substantial security initiative. Security as many an accountant would tell you is not revenue generating, so that initiative which is costing several thousand dollars a month appear to be money down the drain. However, like insurance which I am sure many of us invest into yearly, when you need it, it is good to have.
These are real considerations for not only security leadership but also for every executive in the Bahamas in 2013, if not for your own reasons for that of the company that you lead. Consider the impact your absence would have on the continuity and resumption of operations. This is mature and responsible leadership. Going, going, and perhaps not gone yet, are the days of the sleepy and tranquil island life we are so desperate to hold on to. But the times around us suggest a different reality.