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Celebrity Protection: How Not to Go Overboard


I know it might sound odd, but you can do effective VIP Protection for recognizable personalities without having to resort to tactics that would paint your Client in a negative light.  We’ve recently seen some horror stories about what happens when a bodyguard is overly aggressive.    Executive Protection Agents can most effectively ensure the safely of the VIP by remembering that one of the most important pieces of the puzzle comes in the planning & preparation stage.  In industry lingo, we term that the Advance, which includes  anticipating encounters  before they happen and having effective systems in place to negate or counter them.

While some view the fans, the press and the paparazzi as a major problem, we have to be aware that, particularly in the arena of Celebrity Protection, those three are a constant.    Taking the wrong approach in dealing with them could have a negative effect to the client, and one that could also affect security.  (Insiders tip, managers and agents don’t like bad press, if the Protection Agent is responsible for it –even if they thought they were doing the “right thing”,  they could still be on the unemployment line).

I try and stress this fact during the Celebrity & VIP Protection Training Course that I teach at ICON.  “Verbal Judo” is sometimes more effective than taking them to the floor.  With that said, it’s always nice to hear it from someone else:

Via the Star Tribune

“The security guys with Kim Kardashian garnered praise for being impressively un-heavy-handed.

Although Kardashian was in a VIP section, the security was not pouncing every time she was approached. One excited woman was gently asked not to rush up on Kardashian but to give the reality star a few minutes to adjust to the scene.

As you can see from my video, the security guys were calm and civil and not shoving people out of the way as she and her fiancé arrived at the restaurant.”

full story HERE.



ICON CEO Elijah Shaw to speak at ESI Conference


Ask someone familiar with the Protection industry and Executive Security International (ESI) is sure to make the top 5 list pretty much each and every time.  Refereed by some as the Harvard of Protection schools, the well respected academy is hosting their annual International Executive Protection Conference August 5-7, 2011 at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

As their past line up of speakers have included Tony Scotti, John Wiesman and Tom Taylor the conference has a reputation for being multi-dimensional and engaging.  With all that said, I was deeply honored when asked to be a speaker at the upcoming event alongside a distinguished line up that includes Pete Dordal, Massad Ayoob, and Chris Parkerson.

Join me in August on the topic of Celebrity & VIP Protection, hosted by a fantastic organization that puts the N in Networking.

For more information on the conference as well as biographies of the speaker line up, click HERE.


The Updated ICON Facebook Page


Social Media.

I know some people in my industry are a bit “gun-shy” of the term (pun intended) because of privacy and confidentiality concerns.   However, I can actually remember when people thought cell phones and laptops were not going to take off because of the cost, difficultly of use, or just becuase it was different from what they were use to.   Well like it or not, it’s 2011 and Social Media is here to stay.  Nowadays Twitter, Linked-In and of course Facebook are mainstays and the phrase comes to mind “Adapt or Die”.   I feel we on the business end of the Executive Protection industry can still do our job, respect confidentiality, while at the same time make the marketplace aware of our services.

With that said, I’d like to invite everyone to visit the new interactive ICON Facebook Page.  While It’s no secret i”ve been active on the World Wide Web for many years now, I think our new Facebook page will be beneficial in integrating the networking and connectivity of Facebook with Icon’s Corporate site and Bodyguard Blog.

However, don’t just take it from me, click HERE to jump right over.   Pay particular interest to the I-C-O-N tabs along the left hand side  of the page which takes you to our Store, Training Page and Video Page.   Also please help us spread the word by clicking on the “Share” or “Like” buttons to let others in your network know.

Elijah Shaw, CEO

ICON Services Corporation

Armored Men Author Tom Taylor Inteview


The upcoming issue of the Circuit Magazine – The Magazine for the Executive Protection Agent takes a moment to speak with noted author Tom Taylor regarding his newest book “Armored Men”.  Having worked on other titles such as the novel “Mortal Shield” and the excellent work “Just 2 Seconds” (with Gavin de Becker), Mr. Taylor has the distinction of being not just an accomplished writer, but also a seasoned Security Operator, having spent many years as part of the security detail for a US Governor.  Below is a excerpt from the interview.

You have had an internationally recognized career protecting the likes of President Ford to Mikhail Gorbachev, what was the motivation behind your career as a Protector?

I saw Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt in 1968 in which he and his team had to protect a mob witness. It planted a seed in me about doing protection work. In 1973, I began working as a road trooper in Kansas City for the Missouri Highway Patrol. Four months later, the Patrol began the first full-time security detail for a Missouri governor, called the Executive Security Unit (ESU), with a sergeant and six troopers. At that time, most states had a full-time detail for their governors. In 1974, ESU had their first vacancy when one of the members transferred out. They asked my training officer if he wanted the slot since he had assisted the detail several times and done a good job. He declined, but recommended me. Within two weeks — at 23 and with no protective experience or training – I was protecting the governor. It would be two years before I got any formal training, when I attended the Secret Service’s week long “Protective Operations Briefing” in Washington, DC. I’ve loved EP work since that first detail.

With such a successful career as a Protection Agent, where did the idea of becoming a novel writer come from?

I’ve always been an avid reader and my favorite authors are Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, and Alex Berenson. I’ve always had an interest in writing, as well. In 1991, I wrote a series of articles about EP work for the Missouri Trooper magazine. I was commanding the division at that time, protecting my fourth governor, and wrote the series because so many officers had misconceptions about protection work. The series won the Article of the Year Award. I began toying with the idea of writing a novel in the mid-1980s. I had worked around all of the other governor’s details for years and heard many great stories. So in the late 1990s, I began writing my first novel. In Mortal Shield, many of the situations in the book were inspired by true events that happened to some protective detail.

Armored Men, seems to have made a splash in the Executive Protection industry as well as the mainstream public, was it your intent to create these “hero-like” character who reach all walks of life?

Absolutely. I’ve had many people who know nothing about protection tell me they loved the book and now have more respect for protective agents. Over the years, one question I heard more often than any other from members of the general public was: “What’s your job like?” They watch Hollywood’s portrayal of protectors and use that as their reference. There is plenty of fiction that portrays realistic situations for military or law enforcement figures. But it’s rare to find a novel that accurately captures a story about EP operations. You’ll find protectors accurately mentioned in the storyline of a Clancy or Flynn novel, but the book isn’t about those characters. So I decided to write that book.

What has been your reaction to how well this book has been received by protection agents worldwide?

As I say in the Author’s Note, the most meaningful feedback has been from other protectors. Especially from other top experts, like Bob Duggan at ESI, Hans van Beuge at Savior Protective Services, and Elijah Shaw at Icon.  The positive feedback from protectors all over the world shows we all face the same challenges.

For the full interview conducted by Derrick “Bear” Collins, watch for the Summer 2011 issue of The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards.




Houston Officers Disciplined for taking Photos with Celebrities

While the incident between a celebrities security and a male who happened to be a West Point Cadet has been commented on at length at several different places across the ‘net, I also want to mention another fire I saw brewing from the moment I watched the footage.  I’m speaking about the on-duty officers who stopped working long enough to take photos with the celebrity.  Unless they were clueless of the incident that occurred minutes before, I think there was a lapse in judgement, if nothing else from appearances sake. Best police scanner app helps to send correct data and notifications.

The Houston Examiner reports :

Two Houston Police officers have been disciplined for posing in pictures with a celebrity’s bodyguards after an airport scuffle that made national headlines.

A new criminal investigation has also been launched into the encounter. Visit  to hire a highly experienced personal detective to solve your personal or corporate criminal cases.

West Point cadet Richard King, 23, is suing legendary R & B singer Patti Labelle after her bodyguards pounced on him in a videotaped scuffle on March 11th.    King said his career at the United States Military Academy at West Point ended because of the ordeal.

Video that was aired on news outlets worldwide showed three of Labelle’s bodyguards confronting King in an intense physical struggle in which King claims in his lawsuit that he was beaten, shoved, and assaulted.

Shortly after medics took him away, the surveillance video of the encounter shows at least one Houston Police officer embracing Labelle and posing for photographs near a pool of blood that King had left on the ground in the spot where he was confronted.

Sgt. David Johnson has been given formal notice that he is being transferred away from the HPD Airport Division as a result of his posing for pictures in this ordeal.   One HPD source involved in the case says Sgt. Johnson had gotten into trouble for the same thing in the past. (emphasis mine, ES) That source said Sgt. Johnson had been seeking autographs and photographs with other celebrities he encountered while patrolling the airport and escorting dignitaries through the airport, which prompted supervisors to warn him against similar encounters in the future.

For the full article click HERE.

It’s more the mentality than anything, and I take issue when it occurs on a protective detail in which the officer are involved.  In many cases law enforcement may be used in an official (or unofficial capacity) by Executive Protection Teams, however compensation for that isn’t intended to come in the form of an autograph or a picture.  Theres a time and place for everything, and more often than not, that request comes at moments that increase rather than limit the VIP’s exposure. Learn about integrated solutions to secure yourself.

As far as the rest of this story.  it’s unfortunate and one that i’m sure will be concluding in the courts.

Caption This 15

“Caption This” returns with a bang as we ask readers to supply their own witty comments to humorous Executive Protection/ Law Enforcement / Military related photos.

While we pride our Blog on giving an INSIDERS LOOK at the industry, some things once viewed, can’t bee unseen.  This weeks photo might qualify.  Decide for yourself, but while your at it, make sure you caption it.

*To participate in the official contest, leave your comment here AND on our Facebook Page at  The one with the most “likes” next to their comment will win a surprise gift.  (also remember, even if you are not leaving a comment, vote for the one you think is the most humorous by clicking the “like” button.)

Business Strategies For Executive Protection

Having an Exit Strategy

by Elijah Shaw

You are a security professional, you’ve worked with the same client for 6 years now.  He treats you well, making sure that you’re agreed upon wage is paid on time and that his requests are “reasonably” within your job description.  Your routine is pretty standard, allowing you to get home to see your family most nights before bedtime.

You do everything right, from advance work, to driving, to taking a small sense of pride that you’ve never once stepped on the back of his heel while moving.  However, last night something tragic happened:

This 52 year old man of reasonably moderate health, laid down for the evening and never woke back up. Cause of death:  Heart attack.  And just like that your life has changed.  Not to be insensitive, but dead clients don’t need bodyguards.  The sense of mourning and loss aside, the grim reality is you’ve just found yourself unemployed. There have been similar effects in various other states of the States. The pa unemployment rate has only been spiralling upward and is showing no signs of stopping any time soon.

What do we as Executive Protection professionals do when something happens to our client that is beyond our control?  While an extreme example, scenarios like this do occur, literally pulling the rug out from under the protective agent’s feet.  While some of us, based off of the client type and contractual agreement may have a safety net in place, many in our industry are faced with the stark reality of being unemployed and having to reenter a very competitive job market. Unfortunately, this is not a kind of issue that a law firm like Business Law Firm Atlanta GA can resolve.

To prevent situations like this, I try to recommend that Agents, like stocks traders, diversity their portfolio.  Now that doesn’t mean engaging in a continuous scramble for new clients and then try to figure out some algebra-like equation to work all the assignments personally.

Many times a philosophy like that quickly becomes apparent to your #1 client, who could take offense.  But what I would say, is that making others aware of your services BEFORE you need them as a source of revenue, is a prudent measure to take, especially given the current economic times.

Read the full story in the Keeping Your Edge Series in The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards by ordering HERE.

Ethics in the Executive Protection Industry

The Issue of Ethics


By Elijah Shaw


Recently on the North American Bodyguard Association’s  discussion board (found at either I brought up the subject of moral dilemmas and how they affect the security professional, particularly those involved heavily with close protection.  Because we wanted honest answers to the “What would you do if…” question, we even allowed participants to post their answers anonymously.  While the discussion was lively and a lot of good points were made, I had the sneaky suspicion in the back of my brain that while most answered overwhelmingly on the side of “I won’t cross the line for a client that breaks anything other than a minor law or two” I wondered if those that felt otherwise just choose to keep it to themselves? Anonymous feature or not.

There is an unavoidable reality to the situation that clients are hard to find and once you have them we traditionally do everything in our power to hold on to them and keep them happy.   A bird in the hand so to speak.  But when faced with a situation that might be at odds with our individual ethics, do we turn a blind eye to the activity, or do we hold our ground regardless of the employment consequences?  Of course by and large we all consider ourselves honorable people but the reality of life is that each of us has our own internal compass.  Additionally there’s an age old saying “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”  Does that mean that allowing a client to “get away” with something is ok as long as there is very minimal chance that it would come back to bite you?

Notice that I have not given any examples of the moral dilemmas that are the topic of this column.  That is intentional because up into this point, I wanted you, the reader, to come up with your own set of circumstances in your minds eye.  What may be a black and white to one protection agent may be a shade of grey to another.  However, for the purposes of this discussion, allow me to pose a few questions.  Answer truthfully, and since this article is not required reading for an Executive Protection oral exam (yet) the only person you have to be honest with is yourself.


Situation #1


Your client is a wealthy businessman who has always treated you fairly.  At a country club dinner you sit the next table over and hear the client and his associate engage in conversation that includes a lengthy discussion filled with degrading hate speech about a particular minority group.  Once back in the car he asks how you feel about that particular group.  What do you say?


Expanding on that: Would your response change if hypothetically your son were now married to a woman in that particular racial group?


Situation #2


You receive instructions from your Principal that you’re to accompany him on a two day out of town business trip.  Once there you quickly notice that your married client is actually engaged in an affair and that this trip is just a cover story.  Weeks later the Principal’s wife pulls you to the side, and with tears in her eyes tells you what she suspects and begs to know the truth.  What do you do?


Would you answer change if she confided that he has physically abused her and that your affirmation of the affair would be grounds for divorce so that she could finally leave him?


Situation #3


Your client is a celebrated actress and philanthropist who just donated a large sum of money to a reputable charity in a much publicized manner.  You later discover documents showing that someone in the charity has funneled the money back to the client, effectively making it a PR stunt.  Do you do anything with this information?


Make the charity into one working on an autism cure.  Now imagine you had a younger sibling with severe autism.  Change anything?


Read the full story in The Circuit – The Magazine for Bodyguards by ordering HERE.    You can also receive 1 year’s subscription to The Circuit, by  joining the North American Bodyguard Association.  Click HERE for more info.

Executive Protection Tools of The Trade


Just like building a house or repairing a car the right tools often make the job significantly easier.  While agents and operators possess varying skills levels your tools are designed to help enhance your operational capabilities and maximize your efficiency.  Below is a selection of commonly used tools in the free Forex workshops of the trade, which can help you, become more efficient in conducting your business.  They are listed in alphabetical order and not tactical importance.  Just as the situation should dictates your tactics, your individual skills, threat level, detail and environment should also help dictate your tools.  It is not expected that an agent would carry all of the tools listed below on every detail, but ideally the ones which best compliment the assignment.


Body Armor – sometimes the shield is more important than the sword.  It is a must have for protection specialists.  It is more important to not get you or your client shot, than it is to shoot, shooting is extra credit.  Personal armor is designed to absorb the impact from handguns, some shotgun projectiles and shrapnel from explosions.  All body armor is not created equal so please do your research.  Metal or ceramic plates can be used with a soft vest, to provide additional protection from rifle rounds.  Soft vests are commonly worn by protection specialists and law enforcement whereas hard-plate reinforced vests are mainly worn by combat soldiers, police tactical units, and other high risk protection teams.  Typically the slimmer the profile and lighter the weight the more expensive the vest will be.  Understand your vests rating capabilities – Level 1 through Level 3.  Most vests will provide minimal assistance against a knife slash, but almost no assistance against a stab or puncture.  There are some very good high tech vests which are stab resistant however they are priced accordingly.  Buy the best vest your budget can afford and upgrade as soon as practically possible.

Communications – in some cases a two way radio is a great communication tool in other cases a cell phone with a good Bluetooth ear piece is a better low profile communication option.  As the public is use to seeing professionals chatting on their cell phones.  Make sure if your cell phone or your PDA is your primary communication tool, make sure your cellular provider is as good as the rest of your equipment.   It doesn’t do you any good to have high tech phone or PDA and a low tech provider.  Make sure whether using a two way radio or cell phone your ear piece has good noise reduction capabilities.   During your advance work make sure your communications will work in the region you are traveling or in the event facility.  If working with a team, make sure you have hand signals in the event you lose verbal communications capabilities.


Credentials – one day someone is going to ask you to present them.  Don’t get yourself in legal trouble by working without the proper credentials.  Make sure you understand the carry and use of force laws in the states or countries you work in or will be traveling too.  Remember our job is to reduce risks and deal with threats.  Don’t create undue risks to yourself or your client.  Working without the proper credentials can land you in jail and get both you and your client sued.


Edged Weapons – can be used to cut or puncture things, they are also extremely useful in a close quarter deadly force situation.  They rarely malfunction and they never run out of ammunition.  Look for stainless steel knives with high carbon contents in the blade as it enhances sharpening and edge retention capabilities.  Also look for knives with non slip grips, hand guards and strong locking construction to minimize/eliminate lock failure.  I prefer knives which give you options in how you can wear the tool.  Many of the modern tactical folders also feature open assist devices that aid in faster deployment.  You want the ability to change the position of the clip to allow you to hang or wear the knife in your preferred pre-deployment position based on the situation.  Knife carry considerations and legality vary from state to state.  Don’t carry a felony.  Effective range 3 – 4 feet or within arm’s reach.


Expandable Baton – Provide psychological deterrence and can be devastatingly effective as a contact tool with proper training and user motivation.  They may also be used as a come along device or for glass break situations.  They can be deployed collapsed like a kubotan or extended as a defensive barrier tool.  They are used to intercept an adversary and can extend your defensive range by an additional 16 – 31 inches.  They primarily provide adherence through pain compliance.    Some of the more modern expandable batons also double as pepper spray dispensers.  Effective range is 3 – 6 feet.  Expandable batons are now losing some favor to other non lethal options; as some professionals voice concerns about potential excessive force liability.


Firearms – are like nuclear weapons once you release them, it is extremely difficult to recall them.  They are historically considered as a last option for many, but in the protective services business the threat level, environmental conditions and the actions of the perpetrator or adversary will often dictate your response.  You should become very familiar with the use of force laws and carry laws within your city, state or country.  Deadly force encounters are typically sudden and incredibly violent.  Most gunfights are over in 3 shots or less and with an elapsed time of roughly 3 seconds.  The cadence is often much faster than the participants anticipated.  I recommend a person carry the largest caliber they can shoot accurately.  Accuracy should always trump caliber size.  While there are many fine firearm manufacturers and calibers I prefer to stay with the more traditional calibers of 9 mm, .38, .40 and .45 caliber and larger modern gun manufacturers like Beretta, Colt, Glock, H&K, Kimber,  Ruger, Smith & Wesson, Springfield.  You will find a greater assortment of ammunition and proper fitting accessories (holsters, lights, lasers etc) with the larger brands and more popular calibers.


Handcuffs – provide increased control of violent aggressors.  Hinged handcuffs also provide increased lateral rigidity, while chain handcuffs provide enhanced flexibility in application particularly during confrontation.  They can also be used as an impact weapon if necessary.   Effective range 3 – 4 feet or within arm’s reach.


Impact Flashlights – Impact flashlights are multi-use tools.  They can be used as an illumination device to help keep your client from tripping in the dark or they can be used to temporary blind or disorient an adversary’s night-adapted vision.  Impact flashlights typically have hardened edges for use as a self-defense striking tool.  They neutralize the threat via pain compliance.  They are often allowable in environments where traditional weapons are not permissible.   Effective range 3 -4 feet as an impact weapon or within arm’s reach and 5 – 15 feet to blind or disorient.


Pepper Spray – is an inflammatory.  It works by irritating mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs, and causes crying, sneezing, coughing, hard breathing, pain in the eyes, temporary blindness.  The duration of its effects depends on the strength of the spray.  Without treatment the full effect lasts approximately thirty to forty-five minutes, with diminished effects lasting for hours.  Extreme caution should be used when deploying in small confined spaces or large crowds due to collateral damage to non combatants.


Pepper spray typically comes in canisters, which are often small enough to be carried and easily concealed.  Highly concealable pepper spray dispensers are usually effective only at very close range typically 3 -4 feet within arm’s reach.   The tool’s name is derived from the active ingredient oleoresin capsicum (OC).  OC derived from many of the hottest chili peppers in the world.  Unlike typical aerosol dispensers, the Kimber Guardian Angel pepper spray blaster emits two individual shots of a powerful OC mixture and allows you to keep an attacker at a distance, as it can be discharged from 13 feet away.  Powered by a pyrotechnic drive, the two independent charges travel at 90 mph and cover 13 feet in 1/10 of a second.


Stun Gun or Stun Knuckles – provides unparalleled psychological deterrence, as most people don’t like being on the other side of the juice.  They help extend your defensive capabilities and usually will keep you from having to break something or someone.  A stun gun is an electrical self-defense device that uses high voltage to stop an attacker through pain compliance.  Touching a person with the prongs on the stun gun or stun knuckles immobilizes quickly or helps create a reactionary/distance gap.   The stun gun is designed to adversely impact the nervous system. It dumps its energy into the muscles at a high pulse frequency that makes the muscles work very rapidly, but not efficiently.


A stun gun is not the same as a taser. A stun gun is a direct-contact weapon. In contrast, a taser delivers electrical shock remotely by means of barbed contacts connected by wires. The stun gun’s effective range as a contact weapon is 3 -4 feet or within arm’s reach.


Tasers – a taser is a conducted energy weapon that utilizes compressed nitrogen to shoot two small probes up to 15 feet. Industry-specific tests for safety and compliance are provided by compressed air testing lab. These probes are connected to the weapon by high-voltage insulated wire. When the probes make contact with the target, the weapon transmits powerful electrical pulses along the wires and into the body of the target.   The taser relies on neuro muscular incapacitation not pain compliance.   Tasers jam sensory and motor functions, which inhibits muscular control.  It can totally incapacitate upon impact regardless of the body part it touches.  Traditional firearms often require contact with a vital area to quickly neutralize a threat. In contrast to a hand gun, a taser’s advantage is that it typically requires far less practice to get a similar result.


Tasers are generally not designed to be used as direct contact weapons.  One of their major advantages is providing protection from a distance. However, many of the newer models are also designed with direct capabilities.  Another advantage of a taser is that they have been shown to be extremely reliable in taking down even the most aggressive adversaries.   A taser can even penetrate approximately two inches of clothing.  Because of their extreme effectiveness, tasers are considered to be one of the best choices among non lethal defense weapons available.  Effective range up to 15 feet.












Mark “Six” James is the Executive Director of Panther Protection Services and a published author on tactical weaponry.   For more information visit his site at

The Unusual: BulletProof Clipboards

First there were bulletproof T-Shirts.

then there were bulletproof summer Polo’s

Next there were bulletproof Underwear.

Now you can accessorize your outfit with the inclusion of a bulletproof clipboard.  The folks at, which have some up with some pretty unconventional inventions in the past, have added what they call the Bulletproof Body Armor Clipboard to their line-up and even included a video field testing it.


From their tongue-in-cheek product description:

Each Bulletproof Body Armor Clipboard is a section of Level II body armor, with a clip attached to hold the paper. Level II body armor is tough enough to stop the penetration of 9mm bullets.  The Bulletproof Body Armor Clipboard is the toughest clipboard we’ve ever held. Sure, it’s heavy, but when you own a clipboard that can stop bullets, weight doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing matters anymore, other than your own awesomeness for being the only person in the office to own aBulletproof Body Armor Clipboard.

For more on the clipboard including video of their field test, click HERE.