Event 1: Party crashers Michaele and Tareq Salahi managed to sneak into a White House state dinner. They walked right up to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and other officials. Most shocking was that the Secret Service learned about this intrusion after the fact through a media inquiry. I thought that the president of the United States at any one time has between 100 agents and 300 agents providing him with protective services?
Event 2: A statuette was hurled at 73-year-old Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, striking him in the face. He suffered a fractured nose, two broken teeth and injuries to his lip.
Event 3: During a Mass at St. Peter's Basilica before a traditional Christmas Day message, Susanna Maiolo vaulted over security barriers and grabbed 82-year-old Pope Benedict XVI, dragging him to the floor and on top of her. The Pontiff was shaken but not seriously hurt. Most astonishing was learning that Maiolo was involved in a similar incident with the pope the year before!
Where were their bodyguards? These are all routine events with known and for the most part predictable threats. Is this something we need to be concerned about? Remember the movie "The Bodyguard" with Kevin Costner, where he plays the role of a former Secret Service agent now bodyguard to a wild pop singer? So deep was his commitment to his client that he took a bullet for her!
These events prompted me to learn the real and not the romanticized responsibilities of bodyguards, now commonly known as close protection officers (CPO). How can we as potential clients measure their performance or measure the depth of their commitment to keep us safe or alive? What is their motivation to stand guard? Money? Honor?
The CPO industry is booming and not just for services offered to celebrities and state officials. With the rise of global security threats, corporate executive protection is on the rise with top dollar being spent for the protection services. Fees for executive protection can range from $225 to $3,000 per person per day depending on the risk. According to Forbes, companies such as Google and Oracle spend between $500,000 and $1.8 million annually on CEO protection. Is that a lot or a little? Hard to say without knowing what their job description states.
So, what can we count on for this kind of money? Are bodyguards obligated to take a bullet for their client? Like it or not, the answer is simply, no. If bullets get fired, the rationale is to keep the bodyguard uninjured so that if the client gets hit, the bodyguard can quickly move the client to a safe location to seek prompt help and return fire. Chivalry makes little sense in the bodyguard business.
The CPO's primary responsibilities are to try to keep his or her client from harm's way, anticipate hazards and avoid dangerous confrontation through strict advance planning and risk mitigation.
This sounds familiar, a lot like our traditional risk management activities. In defense of the CPOs, some of whom may have slipped up around Christmas time, if we as risk management officers can see clearly that we can better serve our organizations unscathed by a deadly "bullet," so can they.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI, the former risk manager for an energy delivery company, is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques with V3 Advisory Group.
March 1, 2010
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