Executive Protection Academy

Executive Protection Academy

Do armed agents in executive protection reduce or increase risk?

Note: To determine the necessity of the use of any tool in the executive protectiona previous study is required. Here we only discuss a hypothetical example, whose characteristics are frequently repeated in our Latin American cities.


Requesting armed agents in the services of executive protection is something that happens by default, and many international companies, due to their policies, request this tool without a previous study and without realizing that, on many occasions, these policies increase risks instead of reducing them.

We will discuss the hypothetical, but frequent in reality, example of an executive of an international company working in Mexico City who has no known direct threats.

There are two types of attacks that the executive may suffer: planned and occasional. Planned attacks are attacks or kidnappings by a more or less organized criminal group, while occasional attacks are crimes committed by common criminals who perceive an opportunity at the moment.

In the case of a planned attack by an organized criminal group, there would be little or no effectiveness of the armed agent. The attacks that have occurred in Mexico in recent years demonstrate that criminals can obtain a large number of high-powered weapons at very affordable prices, and in a short period of time. In the face of such firepower, a pistol, which is generally available to officers, is practically useless.

To this we can add the risks of the "Harfuch effect", i.e., the impulse under super stress that protection agents have to respond to fire, even when inside the armored vehicle, which is serious for all occupants.

If the protector is armed in an unarmored vehicle, the situation is even worse, because if the protector tries to use his weapon to thwart the aggression in a violent car robbery, which is very frequent in our cities, he will put the executive in the middle of a shootout in which he could lose his life at any moment. During the last year, in Mexico alone, and in different incidents of this type, an executive died, an escort died and four others were wounded.

 We have a similar situation, in the case of assaults, when the executive moves on foot. Executives generally move within crowded areas, of high economic power, and where the risk of assault is very high. In the event that the criminal, for whatever reason, is not deterred by the presence of the escort and proceeds to assault the executive, and if the escort tries to thwart the aggression with his weapon, there is a high probability that, due to the physiological effects of "super stress", he will not hit the target, no matter how well trained he is, and that he will also hit the executive, someone in his entourage or any other person who happens to be there. In turn, this action would unleash a shooting with possible fatal consequences.

 This unfortunately already happens frequently in Mexico. The most notorious case was the unintentional murder of Mexican businessman Adolfo Lagos by his bodyguards while defending him from a robbery in 2017. 

We can see that in these situations armed agents raise the risks instead of reducing them, as the risk of losing a vehicle, a wallet or a watch becomes the risk of losing one's life or being seriously injured. Also, if something like this were to happen in the busy areas of our operation, the damage to the image of the company and the brand would be very serious.

To all this, we can add minor problems, such as delays and inconveniences that the executive may have in a fortuitous search if his vehicle is stopped by the authorities when the escorts are armed. Also, the escorts could not accompany the executive to certain facilities where it is not allowed to enter with weapons.

Thus we can see that firearms in this hypothetical but very frequent case do not bring any benefit and can generate serious problems for the life and physical integrity of executives, their families and citizens, as well as possible incalculable damage to both the image of the executive and his company, not to mention the legal problems that arise from this.

 To all of this, it is important to add that the study we conducted on the effectiveness of the firearm in the executive protection refers that its effectiveness in real conditions is only 4.13 %. It is therefore very important to understand that the executive is not protected by one person with or without a weapon, but by a system of several elements. Planned attacks, however dangerous they may be, must be detected in their preparation phase by means of counter-surveillance and/or early warning long before the aggression falls on the executive.

The risk of assaults is minimized in three ways: Early warning activities, protective logistics that reduce exposure, and deterrence performed by the close protection agent.

In this way, we can reduce the risks to an optimal level without generating other potential serious risks posed by the armed actors in this example.

 Once again it is important to emphasize that we do not mean that firearms are not useful in the executive protectionOn the contrary, there are specific cases where its implementation is necessary and unavoidable. What we want to emphasize is that we cannot implement firearms by default in any service, since, on many occasions, as in the one described above, firearms increase risks instead of reducing them. In order to decide whether or not to use firearms, what type and under what procedures, a detailed security study is required to generate the basis for an adequate operation.