It is a dangerous world with new and evolving challenges that can threaten the safety and security of our elected officials, community leaders, corporate executives and the organizations they lead.

With a 24-hour news cycle and social media, inflammatory stories and even personal information about an executive can spread worldwide. Negative messages that affect your enterprise’s brand and reputation can face the same fate.

In an enterprise with a robust Executive Protection (EP) program, it is the job of that team to ensure the physical safety of the principal and also the principal’s and his or her organization’s reputations. A large part of that task lies with a strong Protective Intelligence program that conducts thorough and continual threat assessments. And an important part of any threat assessment team is a skilled investigator.

According to Wayne North, CPP, a retired federal law enforcement executive and emergency programs manager, and Managing Partner for Overwatch Risk Solutions LLC in Tallahassee, Florida, there’s a large gap in EP missions – in the pre-event and travel planning areas. Proper protective intelligence is rarely utilized, he says, and in many cases, that exposes the client and any traveling party to unnecessary risk. This is where strong investigative skills are crucial, as the role of a trained, skilled investigator or analyst should not be overlooked. A good protective intelligence process can identify potential hostile actors; identify security and safety concerns; aid in developing emergency response procedures; and identify potential logistical challenges in such things as vehicle routes, lodging arrangements, arrivals and departures, entry and egress points at various venues, luggage control and security, and areas to avoid. The two most important things for an effective EP mission is to ensure the client’s physical safety and protect their brand/reputation, North says. Thorough protective intelligence by an experienced investigator or analyst is invaluable in this regard.


What are the skill sets needed for one to conduct a thorough risk assessment?

A thorough risk assessment requires dedicated investigators with excellent investigative and analytical skills to obtain information from multiple independent and corroborated sources, and these instigators need several key skill sets.

First is the ability to discreetly mine open source information. An Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigation analyzes social media, public records, blog posts, podcasts and media outlets. It can provide a wealth of information for an experienced investigator by quickly identifying individuals or groups that have expressed a desire to cause harm to or have otherwise shown an inappropriate or unusual interest in a principal or the organization. Analyzing status updates, photos posted by both a person or group of interest and their friends, followers and other social connections can help to determine if a legitimate threat exists, identify the location of a person at a given time, track travel, identify upcoming events that may be of concern, and uncover a wealth of priceless information. It is worth noting that OSINT analysis should not stop with the issuance of a threat assessment report or a travel safety briefing. For example, continual, real-time monitoring of social media while the principal is traveling or attending an event is critical in identifying any developing risks or threats such as natural disasters or civil unrest.


What about interview skills?

Absolutely. Law enforcement protective intelligence investigators will often attempt to interview a person of concern to determine motive, assess the person’s mental state, evaluate the ability to carry out a threat, etc. Non-law enforcement organizations may not have the capacity, desire, legal authority or resources to do this. However, good interviewers know how to establish rapport and convince people to cooperate. This ability is also extremely valuable when talking to others who possess vital information such as law enforcement officers, external partners such as other security organizations or event staff, and internal resources like human resource specialists. As with any investigator, the risk assessment investigator has to be approachable with good people skills and able to develop sources and information and contacts.


How can security technology be used?

Surveillance is another traditional investigative skill that can be helpful in determining if an identified person of interest possesses the intent and capability to follow through on an expressed threat by evaluating financial means, associates, daily routines and even identifying erratic behavior.

Obviously, these are just a few of the skills needed for effective risk assessment investigators. Other soft skills such as excellent communication skills, common sense, flexibility, discretion and the ability to work effectively with a team are needed.

Do you have a dedicated and skilled investigator that is involved in your EP program to mitigate risks to your organization and your leadership? I’d like to know. Email me at