As often happens during my travels, I was recently asked several questions pertaining to executive protection — or in this case, protection for an executive, former governor and time-traveling cyborg intent on saving or destroying the world, depending on which movie you watch.
Yes, I’m talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, the part-philanthropist, part-politician and part-catchphrase-generating icon. In a viral video filmed during his eponymous sports festival in South Africa, Schwarzenegger was approached from behind and drop kicked in the back. Security personnel then dragged the attacker away. Although the brief attack had minimal impact, it illustrates the importance of a few essential principles of protecting a VIP.
When You Can’t ‘Get to the Choppa’ – Executive Protection Best Practices
Executive protection is so much more than surrounding a VIP with security. Each member of the security team must have well-defined roles with specific areas of responsibility. Ideally, security personnel have reviewed or advanced the venue prior to the event. Even better is placing barriers, such as a bike rack or rope and stanchion, in place to clearly designate a secure area for the executive; this is key in public events.
Intelligence is critical to determine if the crowd is expected to contain protestors or disrupters or if individuals have inappropriate directions of interests toward the executive. Some would even say that the advance phase of the event — the phase in which security officials comb through and thoroughly vet every aspect of the venue and event — is the most important element of event security.
When an executive or celebrity engages a public group for handshakes or photos, which should always be anticipated, it is essential that security personnel not allow the public to surround the executive. A basic operating procedure is establishing an egress point that allows the security team to quickly remove the executive from the crowd. Often, this egress point is directly behind the executive. To manage this procedure effectively, the security team must identify resources that will make sure the egress area is completely clear.
How to Avoid the ‘Predator’ – A 360-Degree Approach
Team members must always have a 360-degree view around the protectee to observe a threat from any point. If all team members are focused in the same direction, they leave multiple vulnerabilities for a person intent on approaching the executive or conducting an assault.
One event forever ingrained in my brain is the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. After attending a peace rally in Tel Aviv, Rabin was walking through a sparse crowd, shaking hands, when an individual approached the Prime Minister from behind and shot him. The security team loosely flanking Rabin missed the approach from the rear.
Security must be in position to protect the executive, confront an aggressor before they reach the executive or move the executive out of the way of the aggressor. One protective agent should be responsible for moving the executive out of harm’s way and another for confronting the threat.
A security team’s primary purpose is usually to distance the executive from the threat. The threat may be someone throwing a punch or raising a weapon. In this case, one member of the security team would place their body between the aggressor and the protectee while another would simultaneously confront the weapon or fist.
Advance Protection Planning – ‘Come with Me If You Want to Live’
The smaller the group of security personnel accompanying the executive, the greater the need for a professional to conduct a thorough advance of the venue. This professional should be able to optimize sightlines for the security team and coordinate with event staff to establish areas for handshakes, autographs and photos in a secure and organized fashion. They should also identify potential areas of concern and the best avenues to remove the protectee quickly from the area, if necessary.
Fortunately, in this recent incident, Schwarzenegger was not injured. In fact, according to his Twitter account, he thought he had just been “jostled” by a fan, which I can believe because in the video, he barely stumbles forward. He was mostly annoyed that the “idiot” tried to interrupt his Snapchat post and draw attention away from the athletes at his event. That’s the Governator for you.