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How public and private security operations protect celebrities, big-name executives and dignitaries
Public agencies combine assets and people to coordinate their efforts to create a controlled environment
For high value individuals such as the Pope,
agencies have access to unlimited public
resources in terms of money and people 

The Pope’s visit to the United States reminds us that protecting big-name executives, celebrities and dignitaries is a highly specialised security function. Public and private executive protection groups begin preparing for the visit of major world figures months ahead of time.

“It is a task of massive proportions,” says Tom M. Conley, CPP, CISM, CMAS, president and CEO of The Conley Group, Inc. “The Pope, presidents, presidential candidates and others want to meet people, and they often plunge into crowds.” Then again, Conley notes that unlimited public and government assets become available to protect major public figures like the Pope. Their safety is of the utmost importance, and public agencies invest huge amounts of time and resources in their protection.

National Special Security Events

According to the Secret Service, dozens of federal, state and local agencies combined forces to protect the Pope in his visits to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City. The Department of Homeland Security designated the Papal visit to New York City a National Special Security Event. For such an event, the Secret Service acts as the lead federal agency for the design, implementation and oversight of the operational security plan.

The plan creates and secures perimeters around events, sets up security checkpoints to screen people for admission to facilities as well as parade routes. The plan also includes a long list of prohibited items that screeners will confiscate from people passing through the checkpoints. In addition, there are airspace restrictions and maritime restrictions enforced by the U.S. Air Force, Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security.

Public agencies’ combined protection

The private sector doesn’t have
the manpower, technology or the
government’s access to threat
intelligence. That can significantly
hinder the 
effectiveness of a private
protection detail

“It is a huge task,” Conley says. “But public agencies have handled these kinds of security programmes so often that they know how to do it well. Even more importantly, for high value individuals such as the Pope, agencies have access to unlimited public resources in terms of money and people.”

For example, every security operations force runs TTPs, an acronym for tactics, techniques and procedures, continues Conley. These are virtual toolboxes that combine surveillance and intelligence collection and analysis.

“The agencies combine assets and people to create a controlled environment — similar to battlefield dominance as it is called in the military,” says Conley. That is how public figures are protected. Protecting executives, celebrities and other private luminaries with private resources is quite different. “The private sector doesn’t have the manpower, technology or the government’s access to threat intelligence,” Conley says. “That can significantly hinder the effectiveness of a private protection detail.”

Private executive protection challenges

Every private security company today must deal with the corporate demand to make some business contribution to the company. Executive protection firms are no different. “We have developed metrics to prove the business value that our corporate executive protection services provide,” says Robert Oatman, CPP, president of RL Oatman & Associates, Inc., and chair of the ASIS International Executive Protection Council.

Oatman’s new book, “Executive Protection: Smarter, Faster, Better,” makes a business case connected to travel time. “If we save an hour or more per day for the principal,” he says, “we can produce a true return on investment. “With that in mind, our firm’s mission is to provide executive protection as a security specialty focused on safeguarding the life, health, time, reputation and peace of mind of corporate executives and others who face elevated risk.”

Oatman also says that executive protection today no longer looks like bodyguards with guns. “No one wants in-your-face protection,” he says. “Our clients want us to be more stealthy and under the radar — to get it done without any drama. Oatman’s company provides executive protection and executive protection training for public and private companies as well as government entities.

“We recently established the first ASIS International Council on Executive Protection,” Oatman says. “Launched in October, 2014, the EP Council is now accepting membership.” Taking a cue from Oatman’s goal of serving corporate business purposes, the new ASIS Council aims to focus on executive protection as a business enabler to keep clients safe as well as productive.

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