Balancing the security challenges of protecting VIPs and celebrities, whilst making cautious room for their engagement with fans in the public
Personal security or body guarding is a rapidly growing field. Also known as close personal protection or executive protection, personal security generally refers to measures taken to ensure the safety of VIPs or other individuals who may be exposed to elevated personal risk.
Whatever you may call it, the terms describing this profession are applied to many in the security industry, having a wide range of experience and skills. Professionals at the very top, however, are in a league of their own in this highly specialized field, safeguarding the lives of captains of industry, heads of state and high-profile entertainers.
The job description for protecting high-level individuals largely depends upon the client. The needs of a Fortune 100 level executive, for example, differ greatly from a recording artist on a global tour. To illustrate these differences, we turned to top personal security experts in their respective fields – Julius de Boer of RAD Security Services, and Scott Alswang of SOS Security Incorporated.
Julius de Boer is a security industry leader specializing in entertainment. He has provided security for super stars like Jay-Z and Beyoncé and is the person many high-profile celebrities turn to when embarking on international concert and promotional tours. According to de Boer, the biggest differences between executive security and celebrity security are the recognition levels of the client and the levels of public interaction that their clients require with the public. He gives the example of Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan, an internationally well-known name, but a man relatively few recognize on the street. His security needs would differ greatly from Kanye West or Justin Bieber, who might be mobbed with fans everywhere they go.
Another issue is the intimate knowledge many people have of entertainment figures’ whereabouts. “With gossip blogs posting celebrity sightings and paparazzi websites like TMZ, fans can track their favorite celebrities in almost real time,” says de Boer. “Flying under the radar has become very difficult and any public outing can become a logistical nightmare.” Additionally, de Boer says entertainment industry figures often court attention and feel they owe interaction with their fans, so security has to be hyper vigilant, allowing contact but knowing when to get the client out of harm’s way. “It takes years of training and know-how to get to the point where your reactions are instinctive,” he said. “Many celebrities have stalkers, which are a danger, but an overly-excited group of fans can unintentionally injure a client,” de Boer added “So, security has to be aware of the client’s image in these situations, as well as their safety, because it can affect their career. Security has to be visible without being ostentatious, and can’t be too rough with fans or the client looks like a diva or an ungrateful jerk.” “It’s a mentally taxing job,” de Boer said. “You have to be three steps ahead at all times, so you don’t let situations devolve to the point you have to get physical with anyone.” Security in this arena also requires a great deal of coordination with other members of the client’s team, such as publicists and managers. “You have to be familiar with how the entertainment industry works in order to be effective,” he said.
Scott Alswang, a former special agent with the US Secret Service agrees. “If I’m working for the CEO of an international corporation or a foreign diplomat, getting them from point A to point B without attracting attention and with no one unknown to them getting physically close…that is our goal,” Alswang said. “An obvious security detail or the appearance of an entourage can draw unnecessary attention to a client, so with a high-level executive you want guys who can blend in. They aren’t required to interact with the general public, so there is never an occasion where we would allow a stranger to rush up or embrace them, as sometimes happens with celebrities.” There is also a less personal relationship. “Executives are going about their daily routine…they’re going to work and going home to their families just like anyone else, they just happen to have security issues. Because of this, we try to be invisible to the client so they can lead as normal a life as possible. We also have fairly regular shifts.” Alswang added, “With celebrities, it’s a 24-hour-a-day job. You can be on the road for weeks or months at a time with the celebrity and a relatively small group of people in their inner circle. It’s a much more intimate relationship, which can be difficult to maintain while still being vigilant and professional.”
Regardless of whether you are protecting a celebrity or a bank president, becoming a security professional at the highest levels requires extensive knowledge and training. Even at the top, continued education and professional development are critical. Professionals like Julius and Scott have achieved success due to their relentless attention to detail, discretion and leadership skills.
About the author
Don Aviv is the Chief Operating Officer of Interfor, Inc. and Managing Director of the Physical Security Consulting Group. Interfor has been a leader in international physical security consulting since 1979, helping thousands of clients restore the integrity of their operations following incidents of fraud or other corporate misconduct. Mr. Aviv oversees day-to-day operations of the company. He has extensive experience in physical security, risk management, crisis mitigation and global investigations.
An author of many articles on physical security, threat mitigation and matters relating to terrorism, Aviv has also been interviewed and quoted on corporate security and physical security countermeasures. He has served as an expert witness on security-related legal matters.
Aviv is a Board Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Board Certified Physical Security Professional (PSP). He is also a certified New York State Private Investigator and recently attained certification as a Professional Investigator (PCI, Professional Certified Investigator). He holds a B.A. from the University of Rochester and an Alpha Phi Sigma M.S. in Criminal Justice from Suffolk University. Mr. Aviv is a member of several investigative and security-related organizations and trade groups. He is very active with ASIS on local and national levels.
He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), teaching Homeland Security and Emergency Management courses.