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Close Protection Mastery: Understanding the Importance of Threat Profiling

In close protection, it is not uncommon to encounter a prevailing misconception – the belief that merely arriving early for duty, idly passing the time on the phone, or scrolling through social media until the client is ready to proceed, suffices as the extent of one's responsibilities. This practice, has been observed repeatedly throughout my career, falls short of the role expected of a protector. The role of a protector transcends physical presence; it demands mental engagement. If don’t believe mental engagement is necessary, you should find another profession! Failure to be mentally present not only does a disservice to the client but also jeopardizes the safety of both the protector and the client.

     Some may find this assertion extreme, being a protector entails more than merely accompanying a client. It necessitates a proactive approach to security and a commitment to going above and beyond. What, then, does "doing more" entail? For those in direct or indirect contact with the client – encompassing roles such as the executive assistant, family manager, residential manager, security manager, or security company – it commences with the quality and depth of information gathered.

     Prior to accepting the responsibility of safeguarding a client, it is vital to have a comprehensive understanding of the client and establish a detailed client profile. It is paramount to recognize that all information entrusted to you is of the utmost confidentiality, and the highest ethical standards must be maintained, your integrity is important. In addition to gaining insights into the client's background and preferences, inquiries should extend to any prior threats or instances of unusual comments or messages directed at or concerning the client.

     Subsequently, inquiries should ascertain whether a profile on potential threats and list individuals of concern. Often, beyond corporate protective services, such profiles may be limited, offering only a name and a social media profile or selectively revealing content related to concerning disturbing comments. However, this is an opportunity for vigilant protectors, even those operating independently, to delve deeper into the investigation. While not every protector may possess an investigative background or an inherent curiosity for such pursuits, acquiring essential knowledge and skills can significantly enhance the ability to understand and anticipate a subject's behavior and potential future actions.

     Allow me to present a set of crucial considerations. In threat assessment and management, subjects are categorized into two distinct types: "Howlers" and "Hunters." I urge you to bear with me for a moment to explain why comprehending these distinctions is of paramount importance for close protection specialists. Such understanding holds immense value, benefiting both your clients and your professional trajectory. It is worth noting that this approach diverges somewhat from the practices of hostage negotiators, of which I have first-hand knowledge having been a hostage negotiator for over 10 years while I was in law enforcement.

     To provide context, let me delve briefly into the role of a hostage negotiator. Within this domain, negotiators often employ psychological profiling to construct a comprehensive profile of the subject. This profiling aids in grasping the subject's personality, potential triggers, and likely responses to an array of negotiation techniques. In the intricate landscape of hostage situations, the identification and assessment of potentially harmful subjects are intricate endeavors, demanding a fusion of skill, training, and experience. Successful hostage negotiators adeptly utilize these methodologies to de-escalate crises, striving for peaceful resolutions while prioritizing the safety of hostages and law enforcement personnel.

     Here are a few points for you to consider. In threat assessment and management there is a classification of two types of subjects: Howlers and Hunters. Bear with me here while I explain why it’s so important for close protection specialists to at the very least understand this, which will be invaluable to your clients and your career. This differs a little from what hostage negotiators do, which is my background in law enforcement. First allow me to go into what a hostage negotiator does. Some negotiators use psychological profiling to create a profile of the subject, helping in understanding their personality, possible triggers, and response to various negotiation tactics. In hostage situations, the identification and assessment of harmful subjects are complex tasks that require a combination of skill, training, and experience. Successful hostage negotiators use these methods to de-escalate crises and seek peaceful resolutions while safeguarding the safety of hostages and law enforcement personnel. These tactics can be applied, and I have applied these tactics when safeguarding a client(s). However, I find the concepts of the Hunter and Howler beautifully outlined in the book, “Threat Assessment and Management Strategies”, by Federick S. Calhoun and Stephen W. Weston. If you find yourself within the realm of close protection, I earnestly recommend perusing this resource and extracting pertinent insights. Doing so will undoubtedly enhance your capabilities as a protector, further fortifying your expertise and proficiency in serving your clients.

     With that foundation in mind, let's delve into the two distinct subject types that demand your attention when dealing with clients and potential threats. In the realm of threat assessment and behavioral profiling, professionals often employ the terms "Hunter" and "Howler." These designations serve the purpose of categorizing individuals according to their propensity for violence or disruptive conduct.

     Below, you'll find a brief overview of each classification:

1. Hunter:

  • Characteristics: A "Hunter" refers to an individual who is generally calm, calculated, and methodical in their approach to causing harm or committing violent acts. They tend to plan their actions meticulously and may display a high level of self-control.

  • Motivations: Hunters are often motivated by specific grievances, personal vendettas, ideological beliefs, or a desire for revenge. Their actions are typically premeditated and driven by a perceived need to address perceived injustices.

  • Behavioral Indicators: Some behavioral indicators of a Hunter may include isolation, a history of meticulous planning or stalking, research into weapons or tactics, and a propensity for controlling or manipulative behavior.

  • Risk Assessment: Hunters can pose a significant threat due to their calculated and deliberate approach to violence. Their actions may be difficult to predict, making early detection and intervention crucial.


2. Howler:

  • Characteristics: A "Howler" refers to an individual who is more impulsive, emotionally charged, and may exhibit erratic or unpredictable behavior. They are often associated with emotional outbursts or public displays of aggression.

  • ·Motivations: Howlers may act impulsively due to emotional distress, mental health issues, substance abuse, or situational triggers. Their actions may not always be well-planned or rational.

  • Behavioral Indicators: Behavioral indicators of a Howler may include aggressive outbursts, public disturbances, erratic behavior patterns, substance abuse problems, and a history of impulsive actions or arrests.

  • Risk Assessment: While Howlers can be disruptive and pose immediate risks, their actions are often less calculated than those of Hunters. However, they can still present a danger to themselves and others, especially when their emotional state escalates.


     It's important to note that these terms are used descriptively and should not be considered as definitive classifications. In real-life threat assessment and behavioral profiling, individuals may exhibit a range of behaviors and motivations that do not fit neatly into these categories. Profilers and threat assessors use such terms to help understand and assess potential risks and develop strategies for dealing with individuals who may pose threats to the safety and security of our clients.

     Protectors should possess a profound understanding of human behavior and the trajectory toward violence because this knowledge is pivotal in effectively safeguarding clients and mitigating potential threats. By comprehending the intricacies of human behavior, protectors can identify subtle signs of distress, agitation, or malevolence in individuals, allowing for early intervention and de-escalation. Recognizing the path to violence, which often includes a series of escalating behaviors and warning signs, enables protectors to anticipate and respond to impending threats with greater precision. This understanding empowers protectors to devise proactive security strategies, build rapport, and employ effective communication techniques, ultimately fostering a safer environment for their clients. In essence, a grasp of human behavior equips protectors with the tools to assess risks, make informed decisions, and uphold their paramount duty of preserving the well-being of those under their care.



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