This question emphasizes the lack of knowledge in the state and local law enforcement community as it relates to dignitary/executive protection.  If you choose to read this article based on the title, by all means, keep reading.  If you are currently employed as a DP/EP agent, then I bet you got a chuckle when you read the title.

In addition to being a police officer for the last 15 years, I have also provided DP/EP services in the United States and internationally, beginning with my service in the Marines Corps as a member of Marine Security Company #1 assigned to Camp David.  I have been assigned to every kind of protection detail you can imagine from US Secret Service counter-assault force to being the only protection agent assigned to a protectee in a third world country.

I have had the opportunity to work for many individuals and organizations.  Invariably a fellow officer finds out that I do “bodyguard” work and expresses an interest.  Their first question when discussing a possible detail is, “What gun should I carry?”

The short answer is, it doesn’t matter!  A brief study in the US doctrine of DP/EP can be summed up in a simple phrase: Defense in depth until compromise, then cover and evacuate.  When my fellow officers and friends ask such an obviously uneducated but expected question, I answer it with my own question.  When was the last time you saw the Secret Service standing around with POTUS (President of the United States) during an incident with their guns out?   As you probably just did, they pause in silence.

The Secret Service are elite protectors and train more in one month than most officers do in a career.  If something happens, they scoop up POTUS and leave the area or get off the X.  The Secret Service trains for every scenario.   When they sense even the slightest hint of danger to their protectee, they simply leave the area where the attack will likely occur. They don’t act out of fear; they act from the sound mindset of protection for their protectee.

This is an overly simplified explanation for a process that is both intricate in tactics and complicated in application.  For law enforcement, it is counter-intuitive to leave the scene of a conflict.  Cops want to be in the middle of it, give direction and be in charge. It’s our nature.  Law Enforcement is a calling that few hear and even fewer can do as well my brothers and sisters do every day. We are warriors and face danger, head-on. Hightailing it seems to be the opposite of our duty.

For the very same cop who is now tasked with protecting someone at an event or in transit, there must be a major shift in thinking and response. Unfortunately, everyone from the chief of police to the parking enforcement officer has no idea that there is a conflict of philosophies.  The real conflict or potential tragedy in waiting could be seen as the complete disregard of our oath to protect and serve by assigning an officer or officers to DP/EP without the proper training or knowledge to be successful.

If your agency is like the majority across the country, the DP/EP details are assigned to plain-clothes squads or units because they are supposed to be able to at least show up in a suit and not drain precious patrol squads of manpower.  Even worse is when the assigned DP/EP units are from SWAT or similar units in the ever-popular PSD-sand-ninja outfit.  These squads and units are highly trained and true professionals in their areas of expertise.  However, they believe that they are capable of performing DP/EP without any training and experience. This is the equivalent to thinking a butcher can be a chef because he works with food.

For law enforcement officers to be good or even great DP/EP agents, they need to seek proper education, training, and practice.  Command staff needs to recognize this or suffer the severe repercussions. When the media cries foul after an incident it usually begins with two questions: Where were the police? Why didn’t they prevent this tragedy? These were the big questions after Senator Gabbie Giffords was shot in 2011.

The simple answer that was not given or heard: US Senators are not the responsibility of state or local law enforcement. They fall under the protection of the US Capital Police.  I doubt that it ever occurred to Giffords’ staff to advise the local agency that they would be in that location. And the lethal attacker obviously was not on the radar of the US Capital Police.

Think back to the 2012 Presidential election cycle.  There is a point where every future elected president does not yet have his party’s endorsement and therefore does not have Secret Service protection. This means that a law enforcement agency may be required to protect the future president without the aid of the Secret Service. That is something that no chief wants to screw up, regardless of their political leanings.

How can we ensure that officers assigned to these details are able to perform their tasks in an educated, competent and professional manner?

  • Identify officers that are outgoing and overly friendly with a tactical background who are comfortable with saying please and thank you
  • Seek training that fits the details the agency most often receives
  • Allow for detail officers to practice
  • Planning, planning, and more planning will ensure a non-eventful detail
  • Details do not have a work schedule and will most certainly have overtime issues
  • Clothing and gear allowances for detail officers is key to a professional and comfortable looking officer
  • Understand that protective officers are not going to do police work when they are doing protection.
  • Identifying officers is as easy as asking the body of the department who is interested in such a role.  Have a well thought out selection process and follow it.

Once you have identified the right kind of officer and gone through a proper selection process it is time to find them training.   This training must fit your agency’s DP/EP demands.  Find an entity that will curtail their training to fit your needs.

Many companies include shooting and driving in their programs and are 3-4 weeks in length.  When looking, find a company that will acknowledge you already have shooters and drivers who might need a mini-course on DP/EP protocols. There are many aspects to a well rounded detail agent, but the basics should cover the following: theory and practical application of formations, movement, dismounting vehicles, mounting vehicles, threat recognition, attack on protectee, route planning, advance work, and event logistics.  These basics will allow for any agent to fulfill the DP/EP assignment at its basic level.  Later, agents and supervisors should attend additional specialized training to fill your agencies specific needs.

Once officers or agents receive their training, they must return to their cities and practice the skills they have learned.  There will be a learning curve and they need to identify what works and what doesn’t.  Every agency is different and the flexibility to perform all the skills taught will need to be catered to the agency’s specific needs and policies.

Planning or Advancing will be discussed in any DP/EP class.  Allowing the agents to practice this hands-on skill and prepare forms, documents and reports is critical.  The only way to get good at Advance work is to do it.  Allow them to conduct Advance work on every event your agency participates in.  This allows them to play the what-if game while thinking like a DP/EP agent.  Events like police memorials, Christmas parades, and any large public gathering event will not only help build their skill.  It will also provide a trouble-shooting view of the up-coming event that is invaluable to command staff.

Best practice for working a schedule is to “reverse it”, or prepare the schedule from the time of the event or the most important appearance.  Example:  A speech begins at 15:00 so the detail leader will craft a schedule that works backwards and forwards of 15:00.  When discussing schedules or itineraries, Command staff and agents alike have to know that once you are on a detail you don’t come off of it at the end of 8 hours or take a lunch break.   The detail goes with the agents assigned till the end or properly relieved at an appropriate time by other qualified agents regardless of the time clock.

Creating a DP/EP unit has a few needs.  One requirement which often eludes cops is the correct selection and application of a suit.  The requirement of being close to a protectee requires that you blend in with him or her and their staff.  That usually means wearing a nice suit and accessories.  Dressing up in tactical clothing is not acceptable. Although somebody may think its cool, you might as well be wearing a uniform with a sign that says “shoot me first.”   In a suit or other non-tactical clothes, agents require concealable gear for their gun, magazine, handcuffs, and a radio and whatever other equipment is required.

Many new officers are overwhelmed when first providing DP/EP services, including: proximity to protectee, knowing where the next movement is going, identifying attack and escape routes, knowing where the vehicles are, knowing who is allowed in the inner circle, remembering what the known threat looked like and the list goes on and on.  In that long list of evolving concerns while keeping the protectee alive, leaves no time to write jay walking tickets or taking a traffic crash report or even apprehending a wanted fugitive on a street corner.  Having that understanding and a common sense policy to address these issues is required before putting a detail into action.

There are many aspects to consider when law enforcement will be providing DP/EP. The number 1 rule for cops providing DP/EP issue is this: just because you carry a badge and a gun it does not make you a DP/EP agent.  DP/EP has nothing to do with what gun you should carry.  If you find your self with a gun in your hand during a DP/EP detail, first fight your way off the X; second realize that you probably missed 100 different things that would have prevented that situation.  I hope you have some new insights into professional DP/EP. Oh, by the way, I recommend you carry the gun you are both competent and authorized to carry.

Chad W. Jones is LET’ executive protection/security contributor.  While in the Marine Corps he worked directly with the Secret Service protecting the President at Camp David.  After two and half years in Presidential service, he began his civilian career as an academy instructor in firearms, defensive tactics, and patrol operations.  He is a college adjunct criminal justice professor.  Since 1998, he has provided executive protection to all types of clients.  In 2008, he founded Executive Protection Solutions, a company which provides global protection services.  Chad’s company trains and consults with private corporations, executive protective teams, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.  He is a member of the American Society for Industrial Security, American Board for Certification in Homeland Security, US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council, ILEETA, and a state licensed security/investigator service provider.  Contact Chad at [email protected]