How not to get into a gunfight as a protection agent


As much as it might hurt to hear, 2020 has been a good year for those who mitigate risk for a living. There has been no better time to learn real world lessons on what not to do in a crisis. How not to respond to a pandemic.......how not to respond to protests.......how not to destroy your reputation (and subsequently go out of business) .......lots of lessons learned this year.


How about, how not to get into a gunfight as a protection agent. There have been numerous incidents involving "professional" security over the past few months that have had catastrophic results. In each instance, social media platforms explode with those who want their uninformed opinion to be heard. The "he said - she said" starts and everyone attempts to fulfill their narcissistic fix. I am right.... you are wrong.....who cares about your background or experience.


It's amazing how many professionals emerge during these catastrophic incidents, most of whom are reluctant to produce some kind of bona fides to prove their expertise. The true professionals of course, do not typically take to social media (immediately), knowing that investigations are taking place and news sources are only looking to draw first blood. First looks are rarely the truth, even if there is video evidence. It takes many deliberate steps for a protective agent to end up in a gunfight, and it never happens spontaneously.


How many decision points are involved in arriving at that critical life or death choice? Here is a hint, it is never one. Professionals understand that anytime they find themselves in a gunfight, it is because they screwed up or someone on their team did. A protection agents’ job is to avoid, at all costs........not ignore warning signs and head toward the fight.


Movement to contact is a military strategy, that typically involves walking around, looking for a fight with the enemy. Responding to an incident is something Law Enforcement does, when resolving an event that is already taking place. Both actions involve assessing danger and heading toward it. That is the job of Soldiers and Police Officers. Protection agents do not conduct these types of operations and should be planning for the polar opposite. Avoidance is the mission.


When a security professional finds that they are in the middle of a volatile situation, and are surprised by it, they likely did not assess and plan properly. It means they need to examine the weak links in their intelligence analysis and operation planning. There are very few situations that cannot be mitigated. Unknown factors always exist, but they are few and usually not so unique that they cannot be overcome, to a certain extent.


For example, an agent knows they are headed into a protest as a single agent protecting a news crew of three. The crew will not pay for a larger team and the agents support network is not on the ground. They are in a operations center in another region. The agent will receive open source intelligence from the operation center analysts, but only information collected from online resources. The protest is large and expected to turn violent. How can the agent mitigate the risk?


Here is where the decision-making process, concerning a catastrophic event begins. It does not happen right before the event takes place. Logically, the agent would never agree to go into a situation like the one described in the first place. They would let someone else risk life and limb going into an extremely volatile situation, with little support.


Often agents are afraid of losing a client, so they just go along with the request as it stands. In comparison, would a skydiver let a client dictate what type of parachute to use, or who pilots the aircraft? When risking everything to protect a client, honestly is paramount. If the client is unwilling to listen or pay......they are not worth it. Payment is only helpful if the agent can collect.


That first decision, on whether it's worth it or not, is critical. There may be times when there is no choice in the matter. The situation exists, support is not available, and the only solution is to move forward. The next steps must be to collect as much information as possible in the time given. Who is protesting and who are the clients? Where is the event taking place and where will the crew be going throughout the event? What is the event and what are possible outcomes of counter protests, police reaction, a large-scale attack, etc.? When is the event taking place and the crews timeline during that event (including contingencies)?


The most important piece of information an agent must collect is, why? Why is the protest taking place? Why is the news crew so interested in reporting on it? Why is the agent willing to risk their life to protect that news crew?


All the questions listed will help the agent determine mitigating factors and plan contingencies. The key factor during the planning must be avoidance. Although the news crew would like to be in the middle of the action, do they have to be? It is amazing how many people get caught up in being in the middle of it........when it is not necessary. Typically, the reason for this phenomenon is ego. There is a desire to feel the adrenaline and feel alive. This extends to the agents as well. This is where the question why comes back into play. If a client or the agent is doing their job to feel a rush......the situation will likely end badly.


It takes a true professional to go from looking for danger and heading toward it, to putting aside ego and running away from danger (and yes, run away from it). The job of an agent is just that. They see danger and literally exfiltrate with a quickness. The decision process starts incredibly early on and most of the risk can be mitigated. If only the people involved in these situations were actually trained professionals.