Friday, April 23, 2010

Ben's "Bodyguards"

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past several weeks, you are already aware of the incident involving Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback (for now) Ben Roethlisberger. He is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 20-year-old college student at a Milledgeville, Georgia nightclub.

Now the fallout from the incident is taking its toll on two police officers. The pair, a Pennsylvania State Trooper and a Coraopilis (PA) officer, have come under scrutiny for working as Big Ben's bodyguards. The officers' respective agencies are claiming they weren't aware, nor did they approve, of their off-duty work as a private bodyguard.

This brings up a much larger issue of police officers working off-duty as private security guards. You have licensing issues...and ethics issues.

In some states, the officers must be licensed to perform that kind of work. Their status as police officers doesn't exempt them from the professional licensing laws. And in some areas, a police officer's badge isn't a free pass to carry a firearm when providing private security. I won't even venture down the road of individual departmental policies are there are simply too many to consider.

As far as training goes, very few law enforcement officers have formal training in dignitary/executive protection. Sure, they're cops, I get that and respect that, but there are a number of distinct differences between being a cop and providing protective services. Name one you say? Well, the mindset needs to be different. Cops, by their very nature and training, tend to chase down the bad guys and put the cuffs off them. When providing protective services, one can't do that. You have to cover and evacuate your protectee and leave the cuffing and stuffing to someone else.

Finally, the ethics issues can be very complex. Sometimes in the protective services world one will see and hear things that while not necessarily illegal, might be contrary to the values and standards set forth by a law enforcement agency.

My advice: if you need protective services (bodyguard), contact a licensed, insured and trained professional with experience in this discipline.