Security Management: Racial & Sexual Discrimination & Harassment

Security Management: Racial & Sexual Discrimination & Harassment

Is the Security & Close Protection industry a racist and sexist industry, I would say in many cases it is and that’s due to the nature of the industry, the clientele, and environmental requirements. To clarify to start with I have zero tolerance for those that discriminate against people period, whether on grounds of race, sex, financial or social status, handicaps, religion, politics, or any other reason. If people respect me then I respect them, that’s it. And if your serious about being in the close protection business you need to understand, respect and be comfortable dealing with people from all cultures and social backgrounds. We ourselves as providers and managers need to be very open minded in a world that can be very close minded.

Prejudices are part of human nature, and we have to understand this when selecting personnel to work with clients and also when assessing the clients’ requirements. These days many clients don’t want to acknowledge that when they ask for bodyguards or security personnel that “fit their image” they in fact being discriminatory. From a close protection management perspective as our business is a very personal one and we have to ensure that the people we provide fit with the client’s lifestyle and culture.

The Providers

As a provider of close protection services, you must ensure you are providing the client with capable people that fit in with their lifestyles. From another perspective you don’t want to be supplying the clients with personnel that have a natural dislike for the client’s lifestyle or culture.

Not only do those providing close protection services have to ensure that their personal are professionally qualified but also that there is nothing in their personal history that can cause problems in the future for the client and the provider. This can be a very difficult task if those you’re employing are unknown to you or your associates. I personally prefer the old school process of finding those for tasks which is by recommendations from associates if I don’t know anyone personally. Many times, I have heard and most likely said when recommending someone, “they are a good guy or girl but…”. This is what you need to here, if you understand someone’s quirks you know if you can work with them, or not…

At a basic level if you’re employing people who are unknown for close protection roles then you should check their social media, check their tattoos for any signs of extremist sympathies. I understand that this is difficult, time consuming and costly for larger security companies to do this type of in-depth vetting but for close protection details its essential. In the woke world we are living in one consideration needs to be if you did not employ someone because of their extremist political views would you be in violation of labor laws as you yourself would be discriminating? Another reason to do thigs the old school way!

One example of where someone with apparently extremist views can cause issues on a detail happened in Haiti in the early 2000’s. For a long time, the security detail for the Haitian President was provided by companies from the United States until one incident screwed everything up, permanently.

The incident was a shooting that happened between one of the US security detail members and one of the Haitian Presidential security team in a night club due to an argument over a prostitute… I heard from several sources, one of whom was on the detail, that the America had shall we say white-supremist views and the tattoos to back them up. But ended up working on a detail for a Black client in a predominantly Black country… What could go wrong…? A combination of extremist views, guns and alcohol can always lead to issues in one way or another… Or was it all just a vetting and human resources failure?

From personal experience I know of one gentleman whom I was in the British Military with who never hid his skin head / scooter boy sympathies. In later times when social media evolved he had his Facebook page was plastered with WW2 German Army and SS photos and militaria, including photos of possibly his child dressed up in an SS uniform… It was surprising that even though this gentleman spent a career in the British Military and had a good CV that he would be employed by high-profile security companies working in Iraq and Afghanistan due to his Nazi sympathies. Obviously, such things were acceptable, or his social media was never checked…

I cut this gentleman from all my social media after all he seemed to be doing was promoting EDL (English Defence League) propaganda. In later years I understand he cleaned up his social media but from what I know of him personally there is no way I would want to associate with him in anyway let alone employ or work with him… Last heard of he was recently arrested and throw in prison in Afghanistan… All I can say is that I hope he enjoys the cultural experience…

From the sexism perspective I will give one example of where one training provider that I worked for in a Middle Eastern country was asked to provide female instructors by the course coordinators because the predominantly male students preferred to look at women instructors. This training provider valued its reputation over making quick money and continued to provide qualified and appropriate male and female instructors to their clients and are still in business. Whereas other training providers that supplied the bimbos went out of business when their tactics were discovered by the upper echelons of those organizing the overall training program.

In the investigations industry it’s essential that you consider someone’s culture, background and influences when you are interviewing them or reading a report or article they have written. It’s extremely hard to find people who can interpret both sides of an argument factually without any prejudices. For example, it’s a fact that someone who has grown up and lives in a poor urban area will view issues, incidents, and people differently than someone who has grown up and lives in an affluent suburban area.

I was talking with gentleman recently who is trying to get into the investigations industry, and we spoke about someone who he met that happened to have a criminal record and smelt of marijuana. This wannabe investigator, who is from an academic and I would say social sheltered background, was very negative about the person he met due to their criminal history and weed use. This to me was a red flag as he was dismissing a possible source just because of their past and social habits.

Many people make mistakes, go to jail, and then go on to be successful people. Someone with jail time should be street wise, have contacts and understand things not taught on online courses. How many politicians have committed crimes and are corrupt but are never arrested? Aren’t the law enforcement agencies that are covering up for the politicians also committing crimes? Of course they are, but they like to portray themselves as the pillars of society and most of the media and public doesn’t question their integrity. As, for weed use, well it’s legal in a lot of places and how many people are popping legal prescription drugs like candy? Our wannabe investigator’s sheltered background obviously effects his perceptions of people before he even knows if they could be of help to him or not. Personally, I would sooner deal with an honest criminal, than a dishonest honest person!

When providing close protection or any other select services there is a lot more that needs to be considered than just the tick the box questions and answers to ensure a job runs smoothly for the clients, the provider, and the employee!

The Clients

Anyone who knows me will know my perspectives on clients; they are pains in the ass! Managing close protection services usually means babysitting clients while at the same time babysitting the bodyguards and drivers… But that’s what I can make money doing so, I have learned to tolerate everyone involved…

Now, the close protection business is a very personal business as you are spending a lot of time in close proximity to the client, more so in many cases than their families. So, you or the people you’re supplying to the client must fit in with their lifestyle and image.

A while ago on social media there were photos going around of some female celebrity with her bodyguard who happened to be heavily tattooed including face tattoos. Many supposed industry experts were criticizing this gentleman with the face tattoos and saying such things were unacceptable for someone in the close protection industry to have. Well, you know what? The guy with the face tattoos was working with a very good client and not sat on his ass in front of a computer criticizing someone for working and making money.

Are face tattoos acceptable in the close protection industry, well that client thought they were and it’s the clients that pay the bills. Are face tattoos mainstream, of course not and would not fit in to a corporate environment. But what a lot of people in the close protection industry don’t understand, usually those that have spent too long in the police or military, is that the close protection business is not just about corporate security.

The gentleman with the face tattoos obviously fitted in with his client’s image and lifestyle a lot more than some stiff and conservative minded person in a cheap suit would… Also, by criticizing this man purely because of his tattoos and stating he should not be in the close protection industry weren’t these supposed close protection experts showing extreme prejudice and discriminating just because of someone’s appearance… Somewhat of a red flag for me, and my next question would be what other prejudices are they holding and concealing under their cheap suits…

Now, can clients be racist, of course they can and many are even though everyone is too scared to admit the fact. It was well known when I was working in London that many venues wanted Europeans only… I remember many years ago speaking to a manned guarding area supervisor for a very well-established security company, with some prestigious contacts in the City of London. He was joking that because he was Black it was OK for him to visit certain sites to check on the guards, but he couldn’t have worked on these sites as they were for European guards only. He was a cool guy and understood the prejudices, he was getting paid, so got on with his job, other people’s issues, and insecurities were none of his concerns.

On the other side of the coin there are clients of color that don’t want white security personnel working for them. I knew a guy who back in the day was getting a lot of Bollywood related work. He was a good guy of mixed race and was very straight with others that were approaching him for work. He told them that his clients only wanted Indians or those of mixed race to work for them. Was this racist or did the clients just want security personnel that fitted in with their image and culture?

Clients want bodyguards and security personnel that fit their image… A white middle-aged guy in a suit and tie won’t really fit in working with a Black gangster rapper in some urban club. It might work but I think only a very small percentage of those on the “Circuit” could pull it off appropriately. I am also sure most of the bodyguards in that category would turn the job down flat as they know it would not be their type of clientele or environment.

It’s a fact that some cultures are blatantly racist and sexist… There are many cultures who from a Western perspective, look down on women as second-class citizens. And even though this can be condemned, remember that most global leaders tend to ignore these prejudices when it comes to dealing with these countries especially where such things as oil, gas and business is concerned. We might not agree with someone’s culture but if you’re providing them with protective services, you should understand and respect it… If you can’t understand and respect the client’s culture, then its best you don’t work with them.

One basic example I can remember was that of a member of a residential security team (RST) for a prominent Arab client that repeatedly ordered in peperoni pizzas while on duty. Peperoni is pork and the house manager asked for it not to be brought into the house as the client’s children were in residence. The RST member’s attituded was that the client was in his country and if he wanted to eat peperoni he could. He had the right to his option but could have gotten the whole security team fired. Was the fact he was on the team in the first place a mistake? Sure, but such attitudes are difficult to identify until you begin to know or work closely with someone.

So, from a management perspective we have to understand and consider the clients culture and who we place with them. Some will say I am wrong to say this and my response to them is that I am being honest and speaking from experience about the reality of the close protection and security industry.

A good and recent example of how people can become discriminatory very quickly is what only can be described the mass anti-Russian hysteria and Russophobia that is happening at the moment. I am very sure many of those that woke up one morning and were told by the media to hate Russians, and now apparently do, have never met a Russian or fully understand the situation in Ukraine. One gentleman I know in London compared the Russophobia at the moment to the Islamophobia that occurred after the 9/11 attacks in the United States. What’s most scary about such mob hysteria is what group in society is going to be the next target to face such discrimination and hostility just because of their race, culture or country of birth.

World politics and alliances can change very quickly and do such things have to be considered when supplying protective services? Very much so, placing a bodyguard from a country or culture that’s at war with the country or culture of the client can cause major friction and possible a security risk to both parties… Such things are common sense!

The Reality

I will list a couple of examples here of where the close protection provider messed up jobs by mismatching bodyguards with clients. The first example is of a very capable petite white female who was placed to work with a Black politician from a volatile Caribbean country and his male entourage. When this lady protector introduced herself, she was told by the politician’s head of security go home… But after calling her employer she was told to stay on the detail and spent the rest of the day being completely ignored and told on several occasions she was not needed. 

It would not have been a positive image for the politician in his culture, where he was portraying himself as someone hard on crime and corruption, to be seen as being protected by petite white female, people would most likely think she was just a “secretary” with benefits. The issue was all about the image the client wanted to portray. The close protection provider should have understood this and consulted with the client as to what and who they required specifically; this is basic business.

Another example is of a very capable Sicilian gentleman that was tasked to work with an affluent female client who was visiting Milan. My Sicilian friend who is dark skinned, said the lady hated him as soon as she saw him. The result was he was ignored by the client and her staff to the point they did not inform him of their schedule or when they were leaving their hotel. On second day of the job, he got a call from the company that had employed him and was told he was fired as the client complained that he was not accompanying her while she was out shopping… The lady had left the hotel early in the morning without telling him… In this case a white female bodyguard would have been a lot more acceptable for this affluent female’s image and her culture.

Again, I am sure some of you reading this are saying that all this is wrong and not acceptable due to employment and discrimination laws etc. Well, what I am telling you is the reality… In general, human beings like to be among their own kind, be it race, culture or political views. Many people have issues and are uncomfortable being around others from different races, cultures, or of politics views other than their own. This can be put down to their insecurities and lack of exposure to the “big world” but it’s a fact we need to understand especially if working internationally in the close protection, security, or investigations industry.

Sexism and the risk of sexual harassment are another major consideration when providing close protection and select security services, and it’s an issue I have had to deal with on a few occasions. I will start by saying that boundaries always need to be clearly established in professional and personal relationships… But, be assured some people will always try to push them to the limit.

One example where an employee of mine was subjected to serious sexual harassment occurred when I had the security contract for an upscale fashion house on South Beach in Miami. You can take it for granted that being a fashion house and retail store on South Beach that the majority of the male staff working there were gay and it was initially not what could be classes as a normal corporate environment. But it was a very workable environment because the owners were serious clients who just liked the good life.

The personnel I provided them were for their store and events were fit, well presented guys that fitted their image. One of my main concerns when employing guys to work there was that they could work in that environment, and with people who could be perceived as being flirtatious and over friendly, but it was just their nature. To put it simply I could not send anyone there who was remotely homophobic. I needed mature people who were comfortable in that environment. Were there inappropriate incidents? Well, that depends on your perspectives, but when boundaries were made clear everything ran very smoothly for quite a few years.

An issue started with one of the floor managers who had risen up through the ranks of the store, when he started to complain regularly about my guards after I fired a guard, who we afterwards believed was in some sort of personal relationship with this floor manager… I fired the guard because he had lied to me on several occasions about being late for jobs. He was married and use to try to fit in seeing his girl or boy friend on his way to or from work as his wife was aware of his infidelities and kept a close eye on him.

After a few years the owners of the business had placed a corporate manager in charge to run the place and things were tamer, which in a lot of ways made things easier to manage. But the floor manager whose lover I had fired was causing major issues way beyond his pay scale. To cut a long story short when the corporate manager stated to side with the floor manager and even questioned my firing of the guard my patience was up… I had an overseas contact coming up and my tolerance for South Florida in general was about up. So, I told the corporate manager, I had made enough concessions including ignoring multiple cases of sexual harassment against my guards and also their discriminator preferences as to the image of the guards they wanted to work there… He was “corporate” and understood they had a problem.

At the meeting to discuss our issues there was the stores corporate manager, the floor manager that was causing the problems, another floor manager, myself and one of my associates. After the formalities and strained niceties, we got straight to the point of the sexual harassment issues. When I asked the floor manager that was causing the problems why a certain one of my guards refused to work at the store or events, he stated they did not want him their… When asked why as I knew of no issues he could not give an answer, just that they didn’t want him there.

The guard in question that did not want to work there had work at the store and their events for a few years previously, and even done some modeling work for them. But, after a couple of very inappropriate approaches he refused to work there again. Even though he had been very pissed off, he did not take things too seriously as he was married, was focused on making money and had other plans for the future.

My reply to the problematic floor manager was the reason the guard I was talking about did not want to work there any more was due to some text messages and photos the floor manager had sent at a specific time and date asking the guard to join him and his boyfriend for a sexual threesome… Let’s say, the problematic floor manager nearly had a heart attack, the corporate manager and other floor manager did not know whether to laugh or cry, and my associate was doing his best out burst out laughing.

When people had regained their focus, the corporate manager asked me what I wanted, money? I told him I wanted nothing, just to clarify the situation, then got up and left with my associate. It was coincidental that all this was happening as our contract was coming up for renewal. Did they want cheaper services? I expect they did. And would I be having such problems with this contract if I was not white, non-Hispanic, heterosexual, Christian and someone that disliked the South Florida lifestyle, maybe not. But the following day after the meeting my associate went to the store and they signed another 6-month contact, which at that point was of no concern to me as I was shortly leaving the country. My associates and guards wanted to keep the contract so, they could manage and work the place, my only interest was the checks cleared on time.

Now, from the legal perspective I had spoken with several lawyers I knew about these issues and possible legal action. All of their responses were the same, which was that to get a judge in South Florida to side me or my guards with a sexual harassment case like what we were dealing with would be highly unlikely, even though we had evidence. It would just be argued that all interactions were consensual. A lawsuit would also cost a fair bit of money and be time consuming with a very negative chance of any possible positive outcomes. This is the reality of the world we live and work in.

So, the problems of sexual harassment are very real, and you must consider the safety and possible hostile situations the guys and girls who are working for you could encounter. I have dealt with several male clients over the years that I would never supply with a female bodyguard, because they would be hitting on them straight away and when rejected it would lead to issues on all sides. And I believe it’s my responsibility not to put a female employee into a situation where they would be sexually harassed or in situations where they could be assaulted. 

Male or female bodyguards that are flirtatious can also cause major issues especially when dealing with more conservative cultures. What can be harmless behavior in one culture can have other meanings in other cultures. Inappropriate sexual advances and rejections can lead to friction, if the advances are not rejected, well that can lead to even more problems. So, it’s essential to hire mature people that will fit in gender appropriately and culturally with your clients.

With the close protection industry being a predominantly male industry it means that females can encounter discrimination and sexual harassment from those that hired them and those they are working with. As far as sexuality is concerned those working in the close protection and security industries are the same as everyone else, so sex is never far from the for front of their brains. But maturity, professionalism, boundaries, and good management are what should keep things in order.

Are their cases where females are hired purely because the males hiring them find them attractive and have intentions of trying to get into their panties? I am sure it happens, which is the same with all industries. Do managers give special treatment and promise promotions etc. to females in the hope of sexual favors in return, I am sure they do… People are people… And this can happen to males as well as females. The big problems happen when people are rejected, or advances become threatening and aggressive. This is where from the beginning only dealing with mature and professional people that respect other’s boundaries is essential as is good management that understands how the world really works.

Are there cases where females are promoted and get favorable treatment just because they are females? Yes, of course. I recently heard of one lady who I met many years ago in a 3rd world country who is now in Europe and doing very well in the corporate security world. Did her looks and the fact alone that she is female opened doors for her when she started her career and also got her promotions? 100% it did and I am sure she would agree with me saying that. She is professionally capable and used her female charms to put herself ahead of her competition, so I congratulate her on her success. 

If you think what I am saying here is wrong, then all I will say is look at other industries such as advertising or fashion. Do advertising companies target adverts towards certain parts of society and adapt the content of the adverts for the gender, race, and culture of those they are training to sell products or services to? Yes, of course they do! Fashion models are again chosen for their looks and what is deemed racially and culturally appropriate for the cloths and shows they are promoting or taking part in. The movie and TV industries are exactly the same, so discrimination is everywhere, it’s just that people don’t want to admit it…

Over my career I have travel, worked, and lived with a diverse array of people and cultures. So, I will say it is impossible in many cases not to discriminate when placing bodyguards, security guards or investigators; they have to fit in with the client’s image and culture. From a low-profile protection perspective, white guys in back area will draw unnecessary attention, as will black guys in a white area… This again is common sense!

For a client dealing with a potentially hostile business dispute a couple of petite female bodyguards will not have the same visual impact as a couple of bulky males… Using the petite females for protective surveillance, sure, as long as they could blend in with the environment. For all this to work smoothly you need to firstly understand the close protection business and then understand and respect other’s cultures and lifestyles.

Discrimination in one way or another is part of life, so we can deal with it or cry about it, but remember in general crying a lot won’t make you much money. I remember going into to one gun shop in Fort Lauderdale and being told by the guy behind the counter that he would not sell me a gun, even though I was a resident and could legally buy one, because I was a foreigner… In Africa I have been told a few times I needed to leave because I was only there to exploit people just as the white colonials did… Recently, in a central European country where I spend time, I heard someone who I spoke to about a product he was selling saying that people like myself were only in his country because we could not make it in our own…

These people are entitled to their opinions, their words mean nothing to me, and I guarantee if I put business or cash on the table, they would all be kissing ass for a piece of it… Would I do business with such people? Sure, if I can use them and make money from them then why not?

Orlando W. 

Books on Amazon
Close Protection: Luxury & Hostile Environments

This book is relevant for bodyguards, investigators & those working in hostile environments.
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