Therefore, what you know and don’t know. Ten Notations and commentary from experience.
What constitutes a crime and what rises to the level of a reportable crime? What is observing an action of bad taste and what does it mean to observe an action of malfeasance? If you, as a professional in the executive/corporate protection business can’t tell the difference, it will come back to haunt you someday.
Consider for a moment, the amount of allegations brought forward recently. Many, I’m sure are true, but many possibly not. I can guarantee that the inner circle of anyone brought to the fire right now has insight to the truth. Having never been a bodyguard, I can only make educated assumptions on what they may or may not observe on any workday. I’ve always been the driver and the driver knows everything. I cannot stress this enough when I teach ethics and etiquette. Even if mundane details or extraordinary events aren’t discussed directly, you don’t stay in this business or any business by being stupid. Like a family member, you can tell a lot by the tone of a conversation or by what you know versus what’s being discussed. In other words, it doesn’t need to be spelled out to you when something important has already occurred or is about to occur. In whatever vehicle you’re driving, in whatever location you are parked or in the company of whomever may be around, you will have a first-hand account of what goes on and you can act like you don’t see things, but you will. Attorneys know this and enforcement agencies know this too.
Note number 1: Keep notations. I am a copious note taker. They don’t have to be cumbersome or long-winded but the times of departure, times of arrival and locations are a good start. Because I don’t use a smartphone, I send myself a phone call when I leave or arrive at any location. Just dial your own number or develop your own code and hit send. It’ll post the actual time and activate the cell tower location if things go really bad. When you get home at night, simply review. Who did you spend your day with? Did anything strange happen? What were you driving? Be specific about your vehicle if you work in a carpool or a fleet of motorcoaches. Recently, a billing question came up with a client of mine and I was able to produce, accurately every detail of the trip in question down to the details of a dinner break at a Denny’s in Gilman, Illinois at 2 am. It made a lot of difference. Now imagine you get a subpoena. You had better know what you need to know or it’s going to be a very bad day for you.
Note number 2: Don’t brag and don’t exaggerate a story. Don’t try to impress your friends or strangers by what or whom you know. Once you involve yourself in a story, it’s nearly impossible to divorce yourself from it even if you weren’t quite as close to it as you lead on.
Note number 3: Determine before it becomes a problem, what rises to the level of a reportable incident? When things go wrong, what do you say? To whom do you say it if something potentially cumbersome comes up? Clearly, if you drive a company or government car and something arises that creates a circumstance that exposes you, the owner of the car or your boss to serious liability issues you need to find a supervisor and make a report. Don’t forget your notes. If you are a contractor or a solo practitioner, determine before the assignment, what you keep under your hat, what you say, and to whom you say it. The time to set your standards is before you become the witness to whatever may happen someday. Talk to a trusted friend in the business, an instructor or an attorney before you need you make this decision. Stick by your decision.
Note number 4: My policy, determined when things were calm, has always been that when something is said or done that creates a potentially menacing circumstance to another party, I will be very cautious with my notes and if or when eventually asked by attorneys or law enforcement, will be compliant with their requests. The outright commission of a crime, an obvious act of violence or the threat of violence not said as a (bona fide’) empty threat is treated much the same but reported to a supervising party as soon as is applicable. Violent assaults and crimes are things that everyone knows and can understand. You don’t need special training to notice violence or intimidation. When it comes to financial or ethical crimes, property crimes other than physical theft, it’s hard to say. I’m not an accountant, I don’t go to board meetings, and I don’t listen to phone calls. That’s my story and I stick with it. Again, if asked by an attorney or law enforcement, I don’t make assumptions, I tell the truth so far as I can actually determine what the truth is. I answer the question as asked but do not volunteer opinions or render side stories. See note number 2. Once you’ve bragged to your friends, you become part of the narrative.
Note number 5: Because you don’t understand or agree with something, it doesn’t mean you need to make a judgment call or make a public criticism. Public, in this case, means private too. Before you were on the job, a lot of things happened within the culture or by the individual to whom you are now assigned and a history there that goes well beyond your initial observations. Talking about or involving yourself in actions that you might find objectionable (not criminal) is a policy that will get you fired and probably in litigation. Again, take actions to defend yourself when in an uncomfortable situation and every day because you don’t know what day you’ll have to talk about when answering in a deposition. Remember, even if you make written observations on days that nothing happened, you have notes that said, “Nothing happened” and that’s good enough sometimes.
Note number 6: Do not participate in anything unethical or criminal such that you are involved in the commission of the act. Bigger players with better lawyers will hang you out to dry if it comes to that point. It will come to that point, you must know.
Note number 7: Try to get smart clients if you have the chance. It’s not up to you much of the time but if you have the ability to control your own fate and you don’t like what you see, let a younger, dumber practitioner to take the job. There’s plenty of work. Don’t kill your career because you think you need the money.
Note number 8: My personal policy. I rarely go to the shows, lectures, parties, dinners or anything that does not directly involve the driving task. I stay with the car, have dinner alone, take a walk in a park, start a stamp collection but I do not get involved with the satellites who accumulate around a client. Although my friends and family think this is rude or that I’m missing out, the less I actually see, the less I actually know, means the less I have to talk about if asked.
Note number 9: Sexual assault. Let’s face it, this is where it all comes to an end these last several months. In a sedan or SUV, the physical proximity is very close and you know what’s going on. If the actions or the conversation between the client and anyone else, including you includes a confession or you become a witness to an act of possible sexual assault, you had better take notes on that one or be ready to get caught in a lie. Even an unintentional lie counts because misstatements will end your career, initiate possible criminal charges or civil actions. In bigger vehicles, a lot of things go on and you may very well not know what these things are. Although you probably do. A good policy is to determine who is in your motorcoach and be very cautious of ages and physical impairments such as intoxication or mental illness. Unless you have an advanced medical degree, this call might be beyond your judgment but again, use your best sense, keep notes and use your power of the veto when it comes to non-primary passengers.
Note number 10: You are disposable. Should you be intimidated, coerced, maybe bribed, these are things that you, as the individual will have to deal with when you make your choices. Consider, when your day at work falls under the scrutiny of civil attorneys or law enforcement you will be up against professionals who know how to recreate movements, have access to cameras, GPS, witnesses who are willing to involve you and the experience that it takes to make any case they want. Tell the truth as you know it. Once you are beholden to a lie, you are now complicit in a crime. Even if the original offense is merely a civil matter, once you knowingly lie, you’ve committed yourself.
The Confidentiality that binds you by contract is a matter for civil acts. You sign a paper that says you won’t spill company secrets, you won’t profit from information overheard, you won’t transfer images, intellectual property or private documents to unauthorized third parties. It might even talk about protecting what you see or hear outside the normal duties of your job but it will not protect you if you try to hide a criminal act. You are held in confidence so if you hear a conversation or see an email and the subject matter is objectionable but within the parameters of the law, you are probably bound by any contracts you signed in good faith. If it goes really bad for you someday, say nothing spontaneously and contact an attorney that is not affiliated with the person or company of persons under investigation.
After thirty years in the business, I’ve been witness to a lot of hi-jinx and to a few things that caused potentially serious ramifications to my client and possibly to others. I could act as if I didn’t see or hear anything. I’ve done that and I was lucky. When I was still new in the business, the old guys who trained me were very strict such that whatever happened in the vehicle, stayed in the vehicle. No matter what. That is, until several of them wound up in court facing felony charges of obstruction and were unprepared to defend themselves. If your policy is absolute and you will say nothing, you better be prepared to justify yourself and your actions. Be cautious, be aware but don’t be involved if you can help it. Know what you need to know and nothing more because if you’re not prepared to answer difficult questions, those are the times you will wish you might have picked a different profession.
Emergency/Evasive Vehicle Operations, Mobile Training Unit
Counter Terrorism Driver Cert., US. Training Center, Blackwater Worldwide
Commercial Driving Instructor, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
Police Evasive and Pursuit Driving Instructor, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
Police Evasive, Pursuit Driving, and Protective Driving Instructor trainer qualified, SIU-C
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