Unprofessional Bodyguards

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Unprofessional Bodyguard

I ran across an article about Abraham Lincoln’s bodyguard. Believe it or not, there was a Presidential security detail at the time Lincoln was shot. It was a one man detail at that time and the man who was assigned the night the President was killed was “an unreliable Washington cop named John Frederick Parker”.Bodyguard

The article tells a very interesting story of Parker’s numerous failings on the police force and how he was hauled in front of the Police Board several times on numerous charges such as, being drunk on duty, sleeping on duty, and using intemperate language. All of the complaints and charges amounted to a history of unprofessional conduct.

Parker never should have served as Lincoln’s bodyguard.

Then, for some reason, he was appointed to the Presidential security detail when it was formed (having seen a few odd appointments like this, I suspect that someone just transferred him out to get rid of him).

The night President Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth, he had to pass right by Parker’s post to kill Lincoln. However, instead of being at his post, John Parker was drinking at a nearby tavern!

Had John Frederick Parker been a trained bodyguard and simply performed his duties in a professional manner that evening, it’s very likely that Lincoln would not have been shot and history would have been changed.

Here is a link to the article in the Smithsonian. It makes for an interesting read.

I found the story very interesting and relevant to the field of Executive Protection, and security in general because it’s a great factual illustration of how a single, unprofessional bodyguard can change history with his or her ineptitude.

Parker later expressed remorse over not being at his post and said that he really didn’t think anyone would try to kill the President. All I can say is…Really! Are you kidding me?!

Parker’s conduct is fairly rare in the executive protection industry. Unfortunately, it is by no means the only case of unprofessional bodyguard conduct that I have ever seen or heard of.

I’ve had the misfortune seeing protection details where the bodyguard assigned to night time lobby security slept!

On another detail, the detail leader (DL) had started sleeping with the principal and it had gone on so long that they had become blatant about their relationship! They would be seen overtly flirting with one another; instead of standing post and running the detail, the DL would go and sit on the floor next to the principal’s desk; and he would also make frequent late night calls to the principal’s hotel room, to “check on her”. Once again I say…Really! Are you kidding me?!

Most recently, although I was not involved with the client’s residential security directly, I was in a command position for the larger operation. It was brought to my attention that the bodyguard assigned to the night shift was sitting in the house, on the couch, watching TV with the principal!

Although it was reported to the person running the detail, it was never acted upon to my knowledge. Shortly thereafter, I washed my hands of that operation.

Protecting the lives of others should be left up to highly trained professionals who have the necessary discipline to carry out the task. Most firms that specialize in Executive Protection, like PRMG, subject their personnel to rigorous standards and will have a zero tolerance policy for unprofessional bodyguard conduct.

Grady Emmons, MSc, CPP

Grady Emmons has spent his 20-year career actively involved in protective services. His experience covers everything from law enforcement to private sector protection, corporate security and business investigations. In addition to other industry certifications, he holds a Master of Science degree in Law Enforcement Intelligence from Michigan State University and he is Board Certified in Security Management by the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS).

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