What Is A Bodyguard? A Secret Service Agent Lookalike? A Goon?

What does one envision when thinking of a “bodyguard”? When one considers the historical image of a “bodyguard”, most people envision a large, tall, mean looking individual, capable of lifting you in one hand and tossing you across the room, seemingly without effort.

In today’s world, security professionals refer to “bodyguards”, our associates, as “executive protection specialists” or “EP agents”.

In terms of answering the first question, “What is a bodyguard”; let’s first ask the question: What is Executive Protection?

Executive Protection is the integration and deployment of physical & technical security measures and countermeasures to protect the life of the protectee (person protected) and/or corporate asset or property.

Executive protection is not simply the traditional image of a “goon” guarding a dignitary, V.I.P. or celebrity. The modern protection agent image is centered on:

  • a “non-confrontational, incident avoidance” professional.
  • the offensive, tactical, assault minded individual serves his/her purpose in a “compound” environment.
  • today’s executive protection specialist is trained to “cover and evacuate”.

large stature

• flashy clothes

• always armed – legal or not

• forceful & aggressive

• “gofer” or “lackey” role

• site protection only

• overuse of personnel

• not always trained or educated

• average height

• business dress

• armed when necessary

• diplomatic & flexible

• security professional

• 24/7 total protection

• technology used when possible

• educated & computer literate
The above comparison and/or delineation leads to an issue which is dear to my heart, because all too often in today’s business world, an unsuspecting client attempts to seek out a qualified professional and without knowing or realizing, the client calls on a firm or individual whom he or she has located through the yellow pages or internet, and winds up discussing their very serious issues with an individual directly from the above list: the past image of an Executive Protection Agent.

All too often today, alleged professionals emerge, almost on a daily basis, having received their state license or ‘no’ license at all and hang up ‘shingles’ and conduct business. In New York or Florida, for examples, the requirement for providing Executive Protection or bodyguard services is possession a Private Investigator’s license. There is no other training or experience required. This occurs all too often and these so called professionals present themselves as the Executive Protection expert “extraordinaire!

They forego any semblance of proper operational protocols such as ‘security advance work’ and usually without even conducting a proper threat or vulnerability assessment, offer to provide clients protective services and worse of all, at ‘cut’ rates.

They not only compromise the quality of service rendered the client, but they also dilute the profession, undermining the ‘qualified professionals’ out here and completely undermine the profession from a ‘business aspect’.

The bottom line is the unsuspecting client can’t understand why he or she is being quoted rates as low as $40 and as high as $200 per hour. Note: The truth be known, a client can easily procure services of a qualified professional for around $100-$125 per hour domestically and somewhat higher for international assignments.

The truth also be known, the majority of these ‘shingle hanging non-professionals’ couldn’t explain or expound on the essence of “Executive Protection, it’s procedures and concepts and probably do not know or understand the basic difference between a threat and vulnerability assessment.

Another untruth in this business is the belief that experience in the military, specifically, the ‘special ops’ experience, is critical to this field. This is so not true. Domestically, in the continental U.S., highly strategic, offensive combat experience is not the ‘end all’ and ‘be all’ when it comes to protective assignments. This experience, however, does have a seriously important role in some ‘very high risk’ environments, such as Colombia or Iraq, but the normal, routine, every day protective assignment is usually a ‘one man’ and sometimes a ‘two man detail’ and seldom more. In fact, this routine type protective assignment is usually nothing more than ‘armed escort’ without the luxury of advance security work.

Essentially, protective service without the use of the security advance is simply ‘armed escort’. In this scenario, the protectors, especially, the ‘shingle hanging non-professionals’ will be just as vulnerable to attack as the person protected.

Lastly, another point to mention and a sad point at that, is, these individuals’ incredible lack of understanding of the importance of attention to detail and in being prepared. If a protection agent abides by nothing else, he/she abides by the slogan, “failure to prepare is preparing to fail”. This mentality was constantly ingrained into the mindset of all Secret Service Agents and the result was evident in all aspects of operation.

So, in conclusion, as in most other consumer purchases, “the buyer must beware”. They should be diligent in their scrutiny of the ‘Protective Services’ provider. Prospective clients should take a close look at the principal behind the firm and look to see if the website offers BIO’s on any of the principals. In many instances, clients can not determine the background or credentials of the principal(s) behind the firm because the ‘page’ subject matter in “About us” is conveniently light or skirted altogether. There may be general statements about background, experience and credentials.

Mr. LaSorsa manages J.A. LaSorsa & Associates, a South Florida based security consultancy and investigative firm. He provides: asset and executive protection, corporate security consulting, expert testimony as it relates to premises liability & security negligence; anti-wiretapping, safe rooms & security systems consulting, event and tour security & investigations; workplace & school violence intervention, threat & vulnerability assessments. Joe has over twenty-nine years of experience in the Criminal Investigations, Executive Protection and the security field, which includes a twenty-year Federal Law Enforcement career as a Senior Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, having been assigned to the Presidential Protection Division, the White House.