It is said that sometimes we need a bad dream to wake up. In executive protection the opposite is true, because it is precisely a bad reality that is shaking this profession and its operators, making them wake up from the romantic dream in which movies and marketing had lulled them. A dream where the hero in a suit with a gun in his hand rescues the maidens from the hands of evildoers and where his reaction capabilities are crucial to save the lives of his protégés.
This dream is crumbling in the face of a cruel and challenging reality where several attacks in recent months in Mexico have claimed the lives of executives, their protectors and also citizens, who have been unfortunate enough to be in the "wrong" places at the "wrong" times.
The growing operational capacity and firepower of criminal groups represents the greatest challenge. An unfortunate example of this is the attack perpetrated against the secretary of the SSC CDMX, Omar García Harfuch, in which assassins dared to attack such a high-ranking official in the most luxurious area of the city. What is most striking here is the arsenal that was used and the way in which the criminals obtained it. The arsenal was composed of five Barret rifles, capable of perforating armored vehicles; a grenade launcher; forty weapons of different calibers; seven grenades; fifty-one Molotov cocktails; ninety-six magazines; and 2,805 cartridges of different calibers. According to expert reports and different journalistic versions, these weapons were obtained two days before the attack in the Gustavo A. Madero delegation, in the heart of the CDMX, for half a million Mexican pesos. This is, undoubtedly, a minor amount for the enormous economic power of a cartel, and, at the same time, also accessible to other criminal groups that could endanger our executives.
In the face of this firepower, so accessible to criminals, the utility of a conventional pistol usually carried by a private escort becomes negligible.. Taking this scenario into account, we could suggest two alternatives to face this critical situation:
Arm all our elements with Barret rifles and escort the executives in armored vehicles through the streets of our cities. Of course, this "alternative" is in every way unfeasible, starting with the legal aspect. Moreover, this action would turn our cities into battlefields with great risks for the citizens.
Alternatively, the only possible alternative is to make a change in the operational approach to identify the preparation phases of an attack and thus intervene in its process, instead of waiting for the aggression to occur before reacting, as explained in the book Executive Protection in the 21st Century: The New Doctrine.
If we analyze the attacks against 113 public figures around the world in the last 120 years, we realize that the attackers succeeded almost every time they tried, as you can see in the following study.
For this reason, the romantic dream of the hero in a suit with dark glasses and a gun instead of a mask is just that: a dream. But a dangerous dream from which many colleagues, unfortunately, never woke up.
Now more than ever it is necessary to change the paradigm and introduce new methods of protection, much less romantic, but more secure, that involve deactivating threats before they happen. Here are just a few:
In addition to the monitoring of direct threats, if any, the intelligence involves providing information on the crimes with the greatest impact that may affect the executive, indicating the places and times when they are most frequent within the areas of operation. This makes it possible to avoid certain places and times of greatest risk and to implement additional measures to reduce the executive's exposure and vulnerability.
The attack on an executive lasts only a few moments, but its preparation involves both observation and prolonged monitoring of the victim, which can last for months. Counter-surveillance detects and defuses the attack in its early observation phase without exposing the protégé to the risks and uncertainty involved in the reaction.
In addition, counter-surveillance provides the executive security manager with a report with evidence regarding the performance of the escorts in the actual operation, as well as an ongoing risk study with proposals for improvement.
Intervention and Early Warning (IAT).
If all else fails, we have to respond to the final phase in the preparation of the attack. In this phase, the aggressors position themselves at a specific point, around the routes and/or homes frequented by the victim, previously selected. This point implies an exposure: a forced passage for the executive, a "choke point"; but at the same time it must be easy for the offenders to escape.
The operations of early warning define these risk points and intervene in advance, preventing the executive from falling into the trap and thus defusing the attack minutes before it occurs.
It is important not to confuse the early warning with a simple advancedas explained in this video:
It is important to note that the advanced and logistics processes reduce the number of these points to a minimum, thus facilitating the work of the IAT.
With these and other measures in the executive protection modern we will make our profession less fanciful and safer for both executives and protectors as well as for citizens.