An Opinion Piece by Michael Mancino
Security is both a feeling and a reality. The propensity for security theater comes from the interplay between the public and its leaders.
When people are scared, they need something done that will make them feel safe, even if it doesn’t truly make them safer. Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn’t make any sense.
In light of two recent attacks in Florida in the last two weeks I feel it’s important to address a topic that is widely discussed in the security world that most people outside of it are woefully ignorant of.
We’ve all seen security theater at work. Look no further than our own illustrious TSA. In fact, the quote at the beginning of this opinion piece was spoken in the context of that organization. When we go to a club, a sporting event, even a restaurant, we are often witnessing security theater. Too often our venues attempt to give the impression of safety and security by using flashy uniforms, big men in tight shirts, fancy titles and expensive machinery that most of the staff have no idea how to operate.
Unfortunately, our society is beginning to learn the hard way that such measures are largely ineffective against a determined attacker.
Part of the problem in the security industry stems from an overall lack of training and quality of the guards that are fielded. I challenge anyone to find more than a small handful of individuals working at these events or venues that are career security professionals. More often than not the front line people are chosen because of their looks or their associations with whoever happens to be hiring.
Those of us who make security and safety our lifestyle experience no end of frustration.
We understand that effective protection requires brains, training and forethought. Security theater lacks much of this. Going back to the two incidents in the last two weeks illustrates this well.
Christina Grimmie, the Voice singer who was gunned downed while signing autographs, was not a megastar. I’m not going to sit behind this keyboard and speculate to motives her agent, or manager, or whoever, had in not providing adequate personal protection. What I will do is stress that anyone in the public eye is prone to targeting.
Being that she was at a performance venue there was almost certainly some form of ‘security’ present however it was most likely for show. The assailant was able to walk up to Grimmie and fire on her from a very close distance. Properly trained security personnel could, and should, have identified this individual as a threat or at a minimum discovered the firearm on his person before he was able to enter the venue.
A trained executive protection professional may have identified pre-incident indicators leading up to the attack and avoided the incident altogether.
As far as the Orlando nightclub shooting goes, the only mention of security is two bouncers and an off duty police officer. One of the bouncers, former Marine Imran Yousef, is credited with saving multiple lives. His training and experience in the US Military undoubtedly aided in his reactions and decision making.
Generally, bouncers are not hired for their intensive training in the security industry, and that needs to change. Most clubs will hire bouncers based off of their appearance, whether or not they can handle themselves in a fight or because they know someone. Off duty police officers are often used in clubs, however they are not always the best choice. Police officers are extremely well trained when it comes to reacting to threats, engaging with disruptive persons, etc and are undoubtedly an excellent deterrent and an excellent resource if it hits the fan, however a properly trained security professional arguably receives more training in assessing threats, threat mitigation, and pre-incident indicators than does your average patrol officer.
Again, I have no desire to Monday-morning-quarterback these situations but I take this opportunity to stress that our society needs a change of perception. Dangerous people exist. Whether a lone crazed gunman obsessed with a celebrity, or a terrorist out for blood, violence can and will happen.
As a society we must understand that true safety requires professionals that are able to identify, mitigate, avoid and respond to threats properly. Security theater as it exists now is dangerous and it will certainly be paid for in blood.
I, and all of my associates, am more than happy to assist an organization in discussing their needs. More importantly, we are eager to illuminate those areas that are so often missed when mitigating a threat.
By Sarge Gish, CPS
“The name Columbine is now synonymous with all school shootings just as the name Ferguson will now be associated with all civil disorder and protests”
I was asked to write an after- action report about my time in Ferguson for one of my friends who has a security blog. I felt time was on my side, since I had another detail to work shortly afterwards and the holidays were just around the corner. Little did I realize that Ferguson would be the beginning of a national period of social unrest in the country. Given the lack of moral responsibility among civilians to confront crime, resulting in destruction and mayhem, in many areas of the country the veneer of civilized behavior has been rubbed off. Unfortunately, from my point of view, I predict there will be plenty more non-peaceful protests. Currently, there are a lot individuals in this country who feel they can control or change how the rule of law is administered. I am not a Sociologist and do not intend to explain why people feel the way they do. Instead, I’ll stick with the elements of working a media protection detail.
Risk & Threat Assessment:
Being called upon to work an armed site security detail for a national security firm in St Louis the week heading into the Darren Wilson Grand Jury indictment, I had no idea what to expect. As everyone knows there were two waves of protests in the town of Ferguson and the city of St Louis.
I will refer both incidents as round 1 (Aug. & Sept. 2014) and round 2 (Nov. & Dec. 2014).
Not being on the ground for round 1, most of our risk and threat assessments were based off of intelligence from those incidents.
Our job was to evaluate one individual or group in order to make a determination whether or not the protesters had the potential to become violent against the news crews we were protecting. Also, the prevention of unintentional injury and embarrassment to the crews was a priority.
Knowing that there were viable threats in the weeks before the grand jury convened, we were better prepared to mentally plan and coordinate our moves, and equipment to bring.
The building I was securing (a major health insurance provider) was located downtown and under no immediate threat. Our intelligence indicated there was no apparent danger for the personnel there.
I had agreed to work for another security firm that was working directly in Ferguson which was associated with a local company named Triangle Sentry. This company was given the assignment of protecting Al Jazeera America and the Fox News crews.
The company is owned by and employs individuals who are ESI graduates. Being from ESI myself, I instantly recognized how much of a professional organization it is and felt comfortable with them having my back.
I had taken the Monday afternoon of November 24th off to try and conduct reconnaissance and build intelligence data. Also, this was the day the announcement of the verdict was to be read. Little did I know that this was the night we would be able to determine a threat assessment for the rest of the week.
There was no one out on the street in front of the Ferguson Police Department except two protesters. The coffee shop down the street was” business as usual” with the local citizens sitting around talking about the anticipation of a peaceful night and week.
Later in the evening when St Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch was to announce the decision by the grand jury, I decided to leave the downtown area, which was still relatively calm, and go eat out on the main drag of West Florissant.
As the night progressed, you could feel the tension in the air. Within hours after the decision not to indict was made public, I stood on the corner of Chambers and West Florissant and watched a Mobile convenience store get looted. Shortly thereafter, gunfire was erupting up and down the street and stores were starting to burn. I left the area immediately knowing the Walgreen’s store in front of me was going to be the next target.
My advance was done. I had seen the violence that was predicted. It was time to help out the team (Triangle Sentry), which was already protecting the news crews that were already out there.
Mission and role of the Protection Assignment:
The news crews we were attached to had about 4 teams, each consisting of a correspondent, producer, and cameraman. They were constantly on the go, navigated by a higher up who was monitoring scanners, twitter feeds, and cell phones looking for any evidence of contention.
If you’re lucky, you can ride along with them. Otherwise, you need to follow as closely in your own POV and be ready to go.
Once you arrive at the site, you must make sure all your equipment is accessible along with the rest of the crew’s. As with any job associated with security, you must walk a fine line as to what you are allowed to do. Of course, we cannot physically restrain someone or display, threaten, or use our weapons unless it becomes a last resort.
Our job is to protect.
Though you are protecting the whole crew, the cameraman will be your main priority. It is their job to make sure they get the shot for the whole world to see. They are going to go into the middle of crowds of angry protesters to get it.
It is important to be within arm’s reach at all times and have a hand on their back to control their direction and balance.
You must be able to pull them out of situations when harm is prevalent.
Between the two waves of protests a rule called the “Keep Moving “ rule was implemented by the St. Louis County police, which prevented people, including the media, from standing still under threat of arrest. An injunction was issued by a Federal District Judge against the practice. But it was widely used during the 2nd round. It was our job to make sure our crews did not fall into that rule.
Unfortunately, one of the security contractors can testify to this. As I mentioned the importance of close contact with the cameraman, he was just far enough away to get caught up in what I call a police line rush into the crowd. Once taken down, they discovered his armored vest and firearm.
Though he was eventually released, he was initially arrested and spent the night in jail.
Planning and Preparation:
Equipment for this kind of violent civil unrest was crucial and must be in quality shape. It was important that all of us were dressed in civilian clothes to blend in with the protestors. So all concealment was vital.
There was no restriction on the type of firearm we could carry, but I would recommend a lighter caliber (9mm or 40) due to the constant movement in and out of vehicles and locations.
Concealable body armor is also essential with a minimum level III certification.
There was a lot of gunfire the first couple of days. But I also witnessed several knives on belts in the crowds as well.
I had a can of Sabre 3 & 1 pepper spray on my belt, which I planned on using for first use of force if needed. Unfortunately, I did not have the one piece of equipment that would have been helpful: a protective mask.
I noticed right away all the news crews had them. I was under the impression that I would not
need one until I got tear gassed, not once, but twice.
You do not need a military style mask, however. A common household cleaning respirator is sufficient.
Mental preparation is essential in being able to accomplish the task of protecting the media. You are dealing with unimaginable hatred by individuals who have no conscience as to what they are saying or destroying.
A prime example of this would be the security contractor I was working with. I’ll describe him as late twenties, reservist police officer from rural Ohio who never had to deal with this type of situation. His training was focused to serve and protect the citizens of his jurisdiction with any means possible, including use of force.
Unfortunately the morning after all the devastation from the first night, a group of black individuals confronted the Aljazeera news crew he was protecting demanding they go home. Thankfully, a St Louis County patrol came by to break up the demonstrators. He felt vulnerable and unprepared to deal with situation.
He went home that night.
The ability to maintain confidentiality with the news media is as important as having a firearm on your side. I noticed the Fox cameramen would take their logos off the cameras before we would go out. I wasn’t aware of such hatred towards them until hearing the verbal abuses directed about them in the crowds.
Also, I found it was important to let some in the crowd know you are with the media, just not what your specific role was.
A good example of this is when a large group of white and black individuals thought I was law enforcement. I was working with the Fox crew one night and the cameraman had struck up a relationship with one of the higher ranking (Capt.) Missouri State Police Officers during round 1. The Captain ( who I will not give out the name) pulled into the parking lot we were in with his patrol vehicle to give us a update as to what the night looked like. Unfortunately, the parking lot was in front of the Ferguson police station where all the protesters where.
They had seen us talking to him. They automatically assumed I was a cop assigned to the crew.
The ability to protect principals in an unpredictable crowd is a skill that must be practiced before execution. The majority of private security contractors are current or prior military or law enforcement and have had experience with unruly crowds. Not only is it a constantly changing dynamic of violence, but also a show of embarrassing actions, directed at organizations and businesses that protesters are affecting. So it is important that we, in the security industry, constantly prepare ourselves and study the ever- growing changes in the world of social and civil disobedience and protests.
We must assure ourselves at all times that we are appropriate while working media protection. And, most often, appropriateness is determined by a threat assessment and preparation.
As Rick Colliver states in his book Principal Protection: Lessons Learned, it is important to remember diplomacy, alertness, and professionalism.
An inappropriate response to a situation is the fastest way to unemployment.
In the future we hope there will be ongoing discussions of media protection for management and increased planning. My recommendation for anyone who works these details is to be involved with the discussions and participate
– Fox News crew with Producer, Cameraman, Correspondent, and Myself
“Lone wolf” terrorist attacks have been thrust to the forefront of our attention recently. The Boston Bombing, the beheading in Oklahoma, a hatchet attack against NYPD, the attack against Canadian Parliament, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the most recent foiled attempt to attack the US Capital building indicate that lone wolf terrorism is increasing.
Much of the response has been met by government officials calling for increased security measures in government institutions, heightened alert statuses and calls for better intelligence gathering. What all of these measures have in common is that they all rely on government action and protection of federal assets. Except for attacks against government properties, these acts are not likely to be thwarted solely by government intervention.
Thousands of private businesses and public institutions are vulnerable to an attack regardless of how much money the US government dumps into prevention and detection. Therefore, it is paramount that private industry take steps to minimize the danger of these attacks.
Institutionalized policies for prevention of violence are widespread and, unfortunately most focus on reaction. Corporations, like governments, often exhibit bloated bureaucracies and extensive reams of policies and procedures that would put even the most hyperactive person to sleep.
Private security practitioners involved in the planning of day to day operations protecting property, assets and personnel, therefore, should consider the possibility of lone wolf attacks and plan accordingly. As we all know, if we allow an attacker to pick the time, place, and mode of attack, we will most likely lose. In the executive protection (EP) world our job is prevention, which the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center likes to define into three principal components:
Awareness: The ability to recognize actual or possible threats
Avoidance: Avoid recognized risks
Defense: Practicing a continuum of responsive force would use the first component (awareness) to utilizing intelligence to determine the range of threats that it can prevent at any time. So we can avoid these risks whenever possible.
An example we could use is the recent World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek Colorado, which Sarge had the privilege of being involved in. One of the primary concerns with the law enforcement and security officials associated with the event is vulnerability of soft targets. For any EP team or agent, a main concern will be the hotel your Principal will be staying at. Most hotels will have a security operations center equipped with fire and security controls, video surveillance monitors and recording equipment. Unfortunately, they are not always staffed 24/7.
A skilled and knowledgeable EP agent will provide an advance that recognizes the signs of any type of lone wolf attack. Here are six signs to watch for which should alert us to a possible attack, and may be helpful for future advances:
- Surveillance: Look for any suspicious individuals taking photos of any aspects of the security operations of the hotel or protection detail.
- Information Gathering: Be concerned if an individual is inquiring about any information about the hotels fire & security controls.
- Testing Security: If your client is part of an attack on Principal (AOP), a lone wolf terrorist may follow you around to throw you off and test your reaction time.
- Impersonation: Be questionable of any possible impersonators that may disguise themselves as a first-responder, mail couriers and any organizations that report any stolen supplies such as a uniforms.
- Rehearsal: Keep your eyes open for any pending rehearsal attack to measure emergency response time.
- Deployment: Lone wolf terrorists may be arranging their assets ahead of an attack.
A prime example of #6 are the backpacks left by the Boston Terrorists and used in the attack. I cannot stress the importance of the EP team utilizing the hotel security staff at all times. In larger hotels, there is typically a security director on staff. This individual will prove to be valuable due to their knowledge of the hotel and their unlimited access. They will be familiar with local events and can identify authorized and unauthorized individuals.
In addition to protection from attack at events in public places, agents must also be mindful of the security situation at the principal’s place of business. Most organizations will already have in place an operating procedure for detecting and mitigating events of workplace violence. The “lone wolf” may exhibit many of the same indicators as someone about to commit an act of workplace violence. When considering lone-wolf attacks, we can capitalize on existing practices and standards.
Where we diverge, however, is considering ideological differences that may drive an attack associated with some form of extremism as opposed to attacks by disgruntled employees or customers. For example, a hypothetical business that is known to support animal testing of pharmaceutical products may be especially vulnerable to a lone actor who sympathizes with groups such as PETA but is willing to use violence to express such beliefs. When considering this type of threat the security practitioners must add to their awareness specific factors that elevate the likelihood of direct targeting.
Religious institutions and organizations that support various religious groups are also prime targets. Church security, for example, is an ever increasing concern of religious leaders due to the potentially volatile emotional reactions antagonists may have and direct toward their community. It is crucial, then, that when developing operational plans, whether protecting a single principal in a bustling crowd riddled with soft targets, or protecting larger institutions from retaliation or ideological attack, specific triggers be taken into account during the threat assessment phase.
Depending on the size of your organization, the use of an intelligence analyst is very beneficial in the Executive Protection world, especially during the advance stages. By gathering various types of data from a variety of sources, from local to national news, a network of people on the ground, and open source intelligence subscriptions such as those provided by Stratfor, the intelligence analyst can then transform that data into actionable information that the EP team can use as part of their decision-making processes.
When the EP team is preparing a detail in a specific region or locale, they rely on intelligence analysts for informative briefs that help them create optimal plans for client safety. Small or medium sized companies may not have the resources or funds to employ an intelligence analyst. Therefore, these are skills that all EP agents will need to learn during their initial executive protection courses and training.
The most significant domestic terrorism threat for the foreseeable future will be the lone actor, or “lone wolf” terrorist. They may draw ideological inspiration from a variety of sources from formal terrorist organizations, right’s groups or religious extremism, but operate on the fringes of those movements. So the question of who, what, where, when, why or how will have to be diligently researched and considered by all within an executive protection operation.
Know that it is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. By using extensive threat assessment, advance work and intelligence analysis we will be better prepared to mitigate, prevent and avoid such threats.