The Protection Disciple

A few month’s after the blog gained traction in the industry I received an email from a gentleman that asked if we could talk on the phone.  I asked him to send me his resume and we set a time to talk the very next day while I was en route to a meeting.  I received his resume that day and immediately reviewed it for the next day’s call.  What I found was a similarity that I could relate to.  This specialist had extensive protection experience within the Church.  The irony is that BPI’s very first contracted client was a local Pastor who was running for the County Executive for Prince Georges County, Maryland.  This was and is the county in which I reside.  I have said in the past that Protection in the church arena is mixed between corporate protection and the nuances and ideological principles and beliefs of the church.  There was a common area that I would focus on.   Within a minute of the initial conversation I immediately sensed a servant’s attitude and humility.  We spoke of his experience in the church and his secular experience.  After the 20+ minute conversation, I knew that he GOT IT.

We assured each other that we would stay in touch and I left all lines of communication open for him.  He and I have spoken several times since that initial call until Monday, whereby he emailed me and asked if I would be available on Tuesday for a call.  When began our conversation on Tuesday he started by talking about the Mentoring issues that I have been stressing.  With the same humility that he has always exhibited in the past he asked, “Eric I would like to know if you could mentor me.”  He went on to say that he believed that I had been mentoring him vicariously in the past but he wanted it to be official.  He also said, “I will do whatever you ask me to do.”  Of course, I agreed but I told him that I was honored that he asked.  So the work began.  I immediately sent him the following questions relating to protection in the church and the differences in corporate protection.  So here is your opportunity to hear it from someone other than me who is, in my professional and expert perspective an expert in church protection.  I introduce to you C. Chad Duke.

Executive Protection Institute, May 2011
(Personal Protection Specialist Cert)

  • Selected as detail/team leader for
    real world exercises and movements
  • Principal Objectives (interview, facilitation, family interaction ect)
  • Threat assessment and vulnerability
  • Movements, Signals and Formations
  • All aspects of proper advance,
    liaison and route planning
  • Strategies (prevention, preparation
    and response)
  • Evacuation (Building, vehicle,
    vessel, etc.)
  • Estate, hotel and property security
  • Paparazzi, red carpet and crowd
  • Evasive/Anti-Terrorism driving
  • Surveillance, counter surveillance
    and intelligence training
  • Report writing
  • Defensive tactics specific to close
  • CPR/AED/First Aid Certified for
    Adults, Children and Infants
  • Washington State Concealed
    Pistol License (aka CCW) # E831441
  • Active U.S. Passport (Prepared
    to travel international on short notice)
  • TWIC (Transportation Worker
    Identification Credential)
  • Armed and Unarmed Defensive
    Tactics Training
  • Firearms Proficient atWashingtonStateand Federal Levels
  • Excellent Physical Condition
    (height/weight proportionate)
  • Clean driving and criminal
  • Experience operating small
    vessels in fresh water
  • Treasurer/Board Member of Victory Christian

1-How did you get involved in Protection?

This question always brings out emotion in me. In August 2004, after being at our Non Denominational Christian church for about 4 months and right before a bible study I bumped into my Pastor in the hallway, it was sort of a strange standoff and I couldn’t figure out why he was stone cold staring at me, then he pointed his index finger at me and said “You’re my Armor Bearer”. In the church today the term Armor Bearer basically
is Executive Protection Specialist and Executive Concierge wrapped in one. So my genesis was very unique from most in this line of work as I had no prior experience, simply a gift that was identified by my Pastor and cultivated over time. Also I must point out that my Pastoral staff was incredibly supportive of my work in and out of the church. Everything from private client work to me attending the Executive Protection Institute last year, they always supported me.

 2-Do you find any specific difficulties with Protection in the church as well as close in on Clergy?

Yes and yes. First and foremost a church is a spiritual hospital. Whether it’s a curious onlooker or a 20 year member, everyone comes in with there own personal issues. Situations arise when personal issues collide with safety/security. It’s a constant struggle of balancing the parishioner’s sense of freedom and the practical safety of everyone involved. I say this with all due respect but most Pastors are almost anti-security…..until something really bad happens. Some people disagree with me on this subject but I believe that a church is the most potentially violent place you will ever go in the continental United States (CONUS). I say this from reading case study after case study of Pastors and parishioners dying in
church because security was an after thought. Initiating proper concentric rings of protection will do the job 100% of the time. That’s a loaded answer and those concentric rings are very detailed but none the less they perform every time. I’ve never seen or heard of agents getting inside the bad guy’s OODA Loop and there being a successful attack…..never.

What you will generally find is the more charismatic the church, the more likely you will run into security and medical issues. I mention medical because again there more charismatic the more likely people are moving around, falling down (on there own accord), jumping up and down….you get a whole church body jumping up and down at once and you’ll find out what your made of. Now I say this from years of experience working in some of the most charismatic environments on planet earth. Having a properly trained team that provides high level coverage but is approachable is the perfect balance…much easier said than done. From a simple perspective you “go with the flow” but never break your own rules of engagement.

From a close in perspective the issues come from the Pastor’s desire to feed the flock and our desire to keep things safe. They are always contrary to each other because they constantly violate one another. What bridges the gap is having a VERY close relationship with the Principal to where you can properly anticipate there needs and how comfortable they are in the given situation.


3-What difficulties have you experienced with the transition between church and corporate protection and vice versa?

The biggest transition isn’t the client but it’s the personnel around them. Since I also have a corporate banking background I was well prepared but the biggest issue is adjusting to the level of professionalism in the corporate world. In the ministry realm most support people you deal with came originally from a volunteer background, this is no knock on them but the system in general. Since they were originally a volunteer things generally get done much slower and the communication level is drastically different than the corporate world. I recently did a protective detail on the east coast with a private ministry client, moving on the ground between two different states and needing to liaison with many different people.
Now most of the people I dealt with were paid professionals but in getting to know them I found most originally came from a volunteer background and my original point rang true. In pre-advancing my final location it took about 15 phone calls to successfully reach the person….this would never fly in the corporate world.

4-Are there specific interactive issues with Clergy principals that are not consistent with that of a non clergy protectee?

The biggest issue is personal interaction. In the private sector it’s generally frowned upon to interact personally with a client unless otherwise instructed. In ministry it’s almost essential that you do interact. In the role of the Armor Bearer most Pastor’s will tell the “AB” to keep them accountable. As an example if you see the principal “veering off the right path” you’re normally tasked with helping him straiten out. I’ve had almost every Ministry client tell me this specifically, mainly because that “path” is so crucial to there life….its life and death to them. In the private sector the “path” is really a non issue unless it opens up the client to a safety or security issue….even then depending on the relationship it might be taboo to speak up. That goes back to scope of the assignment, client needs, wants and expectations.

5-Is most Clergy protection armed or unarmed?

Most of the work I’ve seen seems to be unarmed, however there are many churches that have off-duty police officers armed. In these cases its equivalent to unarmed because the officer is generally on his own and not in unity with the existing staff, meaning they do not communicate. So unless he can see everything in the building he’s only good for what is in his immediate realm. Also the reason you see unarmed is out of
ignorance on the decision makers part, they tend to think its more of a liability than anything, however if you provide proof of baseline training it
will generally reduce insurance costs. With all that said I personally believe in armed church details for a multitude of reasons. I have a very good friend in the local Seattle EP market that ushers at his church, he’s new to the faith but seasoned as a former LEO and current EP agent. He will not step foot in a church without being armed, I know this because I asked him to help once in an unarmed capacity and he respectfully declined despite our close friendship because of the potential for violence.

6-Did the team you work for practice alert shield and moving the Clergy?

Yes and No. I’ll start with the No. As a team it was practiced but I say this with regret at my last church we did not do this with leadership. One has to keep in mind that we had to constantly sell the idea of security to our leadership. As it started they wanted security and close protection but on a very basic level. The effort was made to try but with very limited time and resources we had to rely on specific directions to the principals. There’s also the element of the principals families spread throughout the building that creates an issue with movement. Everyone knew the building inside and out but the family dynamic was probably the primary game changer. As mentioned before a huge challenge is getting the
Pastoral staff to see protection through your eyes, they will laugh off more than they will accept….this is where we maximize effectiveness while minimizing intrusiveness.

Now with my private clients we absolutely do this. In fact it’s a condition that has to be met. We practice ingress, egress, rope line handshakes and everything in between. I advise them to us the Gavin de Becker method on handshakes and they all implement it. With private clients it is always a travel situation so we also deal with the hotel building, stairs, counting rooms to stairs, practicing evac etc.

7-In your experience is there a different vetting process for specialists that are trying to break in to the church protection arena?

I would say it’s more lax in the church arena. Now in the private sector the quality vetting is done word of mouth and personal interaction along with good background checks etc. In church the additional resources are generally not there so its very much word of mouth and old school reference check techniques. If you’re attempting to make the transition from the private sector to the church arena it will generally take a good word of mouth referral. Case in point I recently met a local specialist here in Seattle that protects one of the world’s most notable families. He had a strong desire to serve in Ministry but no real clear idea on how to do it. I was able to quickly vet him and within a couple days I added him to a high profile speaker assignment were we are low profile as a team. I couldn’t have done this in a couple days without us both knowing the same people that carry heavy weight in the Seattle market.

8-I’ve always said that there is an additional “Mindset” requirement in doing church protection. Do you agree? How so or why not?

Yes I definitely agree. First and foremost we must ALWAYS understand and identify the client, there needs, wants and expectations. If we miss those things we’ve already lost and you might as well fire yourself. Mindset is everything and in church you have to carry an additional sense of what is going on spiritually as well as how the flow of service is going. You have to be sensitive to what’s going on, while not losing your sense of vigilance. Pastors are well known for changing order of service on the fly, if you cannot respond well to this your in trouble. How do you balance vigilance with parishioner acceptance? If you’re a distraction you’ve defeated the purpose, if you’re not a deterrent you’ve defeated the purpose…..balance.

9-I have also found that in many cases the non-Mega church Clergy have not entered into trained specialist cadre.  Have you seen the same?  Why do you think that is so and where do they draw their security staff from in the smaller churches

Yes this is true. I’ve found it’s because of recourses and trust. If a Pastor cannot identify an off-duty police officer they will generally start with the guys and gals that look the part. This usually starts with ushers and sometimes deacons, ushers are good with people and deacons are very trustworthy by nature. Then they build from there with new members or those who grow in spiritual maturity. I was a prime example, I was tasked as an Armor Bearer but I also ushered, counted money, did alter work, etc.

10-If the smaller church pull from their parishioners, are they specifically trained?

Generally they are not, sometimes they’ll luck out and have active police as members who can do much more than an untrained guard. For the most part there’s zero training other than what they’ve found open source or seen in the John Woo movies.

11-I am often evaluating other protection teams.  Have you seen any prevailing issues with overall protection in the Church?

What I see as the rule and not exception is more of a bodyguard/bouncer mindset than EP specialist. Culture will reign supreme unless someone changes the culture. Since I was really the original EP agent at my church I didn’t have to deal with this but I see it frequently in other churches. For instance I know for certain there’s one detail I could never serve on because I’m not large enough in stature, I would have to gain at least 30-40 pounds of pure muscle. We had a culture of blending in with a balance of presence while the mentioned detail is much more focused on the overt human shield.

12-How do you deal with zealous parishioners who want to touch the Pastor but pose no real threat?

Presence, presence and more presence. I am always right on the hip of the Pastor in those situations, I carry a certain countenance that relays a strong message to the parishioners but approachable at the same time. They are very observant so by the time they’ve reached the alter they’ve assessed me, then when they get in our comfort zone, I’m already in there OODA Loop and there’s no mistaking boundaries. I think my
physical size (5-10 165) plays into it because while I exude vigilance I’m not an imposing figure so it seems to balance enough where they still feel enough comfort to get prayer or feel freedom in those alter situations. Someone of larger stature would have to adjust down in countenance to balance it out. This is also a Pastor specific issue because one Pastor might want something another Pastor doesn’t but in the end they ALL want a healthy flock.

13-From a marketing standpoint for other companies, do most church’s hire within or hire outside security companies to provide protection?

In my opinion most church’s hire from within. The average church is around 150 members in the United States. Since budgets are always an issue and security is generally the last priority, you normally go with an internal staff of volunteers first. It will grow from a volunteer base but since the nature of the position is connected to trust with the Pastoral staff, they generally want agents from the inside or what my previous Pastor referred to as “home grown”. I think when you get to the mega church level you see more and more outsourcing because the mindset of the decision maker comes from a liability and insurance perspective. Plus the mega church will generally have superior resources. All churches will want an outside staff to be like minded and be fellow believers. Reason being you will see things go on in a church that are perfectly normal to “church folk” but very strange to the rest of society, you cannot have an agent melting down because he just witnessed some spiritual. After all it’s a spiritual hospital.

In closing, Chad has recently connected with another business owner, Reno Raines of Security Risks Group that I have had extensive contact with and helped guide his company’s branding and internal admin.  The two of them together make a powerhouse team in Washington state.

1 comment

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  1. Kevin Ghee

    Great article!

  1. +1 Analysis of an elite specialist » BPI Security

    […] to sacrifice is when Chad Duke “Protection Disciple“ asked me to mentor him and says to me, “I will do anything you ask me to do.” […]

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