Growing up in a law enforcement family, Gordon Snow always knew he wanted to build a career in the safety and security field. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, eventually being commissioned as an officer after completing his Bachelor’s degree with support from the program. Having served for nearly 10 years, Snow had the urge to explore a law enforcement career — and that’s when he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a Special Agent.
Snow held many roles throughout his 20-year tenure in the organization, from leading counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan to serving as the Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division. “In the FBI, I was able to do something distinctly different almost every four years, which was really enjoyable,” he says.
He rose from his initial Special Agent role to become a member of the Hostage Rescue Team in 1996. There he trained to deescalate and resolve hostage and domestic terrorism situations across the nation. Then, Snow worked national security cases at FBI headquarters, led SWAT and national security teams as a Field Supervisory Special Agent in Detroit, and served as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of San Jose. During his time in San Jose, Snow was deployed to Afghanistan to direct FBI personnel in counterterrorism efforts.
Snow joined the Cyber Division after a Senior Executive Service (SES) joint duty assignment at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), developing a government-wide cyber counterintelligence strategy across key federal agencies. He found tremendous value in forming partnerships with other defense and national security organizations. “When you build strong relationships with other people, you really get a better understanding of what drives their mission and what you can do to make an impact,” Snow says. He took the lessons he learned from building those relationships into his cyber and counterterrorism work. When he was promoted to Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division in 2010, he led national cybersecurity efforts, including criminal cyberattacks, anti-terrorism initiatives and counterintelligence missions.
In 2012, Snow transitioned from the public sector to his current role as Chief Security Officer (CSO) at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Cleveland Clinic). As CSO, he oversees five business lines in the organization: police and global security, transportation, fleet management, parking, and emergency management/business continuity. He leads a team of over 1,000 personnel and has continued to develop the Cleveland Clinic security department into the robust operation it is today.
Snow himself recognizes his career shift from senior FBI executive to healthcare CSO as untraditional — but his extensive law enforcement and national security background is one of the reasons he has excelled in the healthcare security field. When he started at Cleveland Clinic, Snow learned more about the industry and its differences from the public sector, uncovering how to effectively liaise with top stakeholders and designing the healthcare system’s global security program.
Despite the obvious differences between Cleveland Clinic’s and the FBI’s security needs, Snow found many similarities in what the healthcare organization required in terms of safety initiatives. “Every organization has differences in its culture, but when you go back to a security application for a system, while everybody has unique needs, they still need a full threat analysis and proactive response put in place,” he says.
To ensure maximum security effectiveness for a given organization, it’s critical for security leaders to partner with internal teams and understand their safety goals, Snow says. “Everybody in this organization really gives us a hand — clinical personnel, clinical leadership, emergency services personnel, and our nursing corps,” he says. The security department has already seen the benefits of partnering with clinical staff to enhance hospital safety.
When the security team at Cleveland Clinic was struggling with security officer turnover in behavioral health settings, Snow approached Cleveland Clinic police officers, physicians, nurses, and other in-house behavioral health experts and asked them what qualities their ideal healthcare security officer would possess. This conversation resulted in the creation of the Hospital Safety Officer program, which developed a staff of highly trained security personnel who are skilled in dealing with behavioral health incidents. Hospital safety officers at Cleveland Clinic can effectively communicate with individuals in crisis and help deescalate emergency situations with restraint techniques specific to the healthcare sector, if needed.
Obtaining that buy-in from stakeholders across the enterprise — including security officers themselves — helped the safety program address healthcare security challenges, according to Snow. “When you take the time to bring in your partners and have them walk you through a problem from their eyes, it’s almost like getting the keys to the kingdom or getting the answers to the exam,” he says. Partnering with the clinical side of the enterprise is what made the Hospital Safety Officer program such a success, both in reducing security staff turnover and improving the safety of Cleveland Clinic facilities.
Another instance where industry partners were critically helpful to mission success was the first 2020 Presidential Debate, which was hosted jointly by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University’s Health Education Campus. While the U.S. Secret Service was responsible for debate venue, Snow and his team designed and managed the security around the event, which took place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — and he and his team only had 60 days to plan for the event. It took the hard work of Cleveland Clinic’s Protective Services, the U.S. Secret Service, the local FBI Office, the Cleveland Division of Police, as well as other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to securely host the event.
Snow credits the skills and efforts of his team and outside partners with the event’s safety and success. “I am fortunate to work with a really great team, strong leadership, individual stakeholders, partners, and peers that are always trying to set the bar high,” he says. “It’s an enjoyable environment to be in because everyone wants to be the best they can be in any respective realm.” Over the 10 years he’s led security at Cleveland Clinic, Snow has driven innovation through his exemplary leadership and willingness to take on new challenges, helping secure the health system’s facilities, staff and patients seeking care.