Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Being Arrested - Hostile Environments
I find it amusing that in the close protection and investigations industry these days everyone is trying to be the squeaky clean perfect little protectors and detectives, which is all well and good to some extent as long as nothing goes wrong and the clients are behaving. The issue is when things do go wrong and get heated, which they do often, you need people around you that are street wise and have a spine, not choir boys who are going to sing and cause more problems for everyone involved.
These days if you travel internationally or you are going to be working in the emerging markets, you are running the risk of being arrested for some reason. Criminals are not the only ones who can end up in handcuffs! It may come as a shock to some people, but many police forces are corrupt and not just in the emerging markets.
I have experienced both police and state corruption in Western Europe and the U.S.; just because someone has a badge, it does not mean they are honest and trustworthy. Many people, particularly those who are not well traveled, are suspicious of strangers, especially if the stranger is a foreigner. If you are seen acting suspiciously, talking about security matters and taking pictures of venues, you could be taken for a spy or a terrorist and arrested.
In many places if the local police find out you are providing close protection or investigation services you’re going to get hassled… Identification, Licenses and weapons permits checked to start with, why, usually for no other reason than the cops are bored or jealous and if you're providing close protection services to mess with you in front of your client. Then the cops will drop their business cards to the client in the hope of getting some off-duty work. Be assured if they find the slightest reason to detain or arrest you, they will, and in 3rd world countries things can be a lot worse!
A simple example I can give was that I was once traveling with a group of people through Italy in the early 1990’s, at one port on the Adriatic several of the group members decided to wander off and take some photos of some Italian navy patrol boats. By the time I had located them they had been taken on board one of the vessels and were being spoken to by the military police. They handed over their film, explained they were tourists, the police were very professional, and everyone went on their way, but in some countries taking photos of anything military related can get you into a lot of trouble.
If you are ever involved in a violent confrontation and end up hurting or killing someone, you will be arrested. If you are a foreigner, the chances will be that the local authorities will be against you to start with and they’ll want to make an example of you. Especially if they find out you’re a bodyguard, investigator or security contractor etc.
You need to make plans for what to do in this situation; you don’t want to end up in a 3rd world prison because you took a gun off and shot a kidnapper, who turned out to be a police officer. In many countries, even developed Western countries, since 9/11, the mere fact that you are a foreigner will put you in the same league as a terrorist in many people’s minds. Unfortunately, it will mean nothing if you are a 100% law-abiding citizen.
You must also remember; the most dangerous time will be the first few minutes of your arrest. You can expect some level of violence, even from police in 1st world countries. In the US most cops first response to an incident is to draw their guns, if they see any possible threat they shoot, so be very careful especially when dealing with armed, nervous and scared police.
If you’re providing serious security or investigative services you must always keep a low profile, have an escape plan including several routes to a safe location and know how to get out of the country. Also, have protocols in place for if you, your client or team members are arrested or detained by the police, military or government agencies…
Below are some basic consideration on what to do if your detained or arrested. What you say and do depends on where you are, the situation and the attitude of the police… Just remember in many locations the local police are not paid that well and welcome donations to their welfare funds etc…
Protocols: You need to have a plan in place and all team members need to know it. At a basic level everyone needs to know how to alert other team members that they have a potential legal problem with the police. A simple coded text message to team members who are not at the arrest location alerting them there is a problem can be enough to get ball rolling. If additional details can be supplied such as the exact location of the arrest, details of the arresting police unit, a reason for the arrest it can help with the response to the incident.
Being Arrested: When you are being detained or arrested remain calm and try to clarify why you are being detained or arrested if it is not clear. Be very careful what you say as one wrong word or aggressive statement can land you in a lot more trouble. If you are being transported to a police station or jail try to inform other team members who are not directly involved so they know where you are.
Know Your Rights: Part of your pre-planning needs to be researching the basic laws of the location you are visiting or staying in. You need to understand what your rights are if you are arrested such as, how long can you be detained for before being charged, will you have access to a lawyer, who will pay for the lawyer, will your embassy be informed, will you be allowed to make phone calls, do you have the numbers of those you need to call if you don’t have access to your phone?
False Information: You need to be very suspicious of any unverifiable information given to you by the police, other inmates and even lawyers. Any unverifiable information could be false information that is being given to you to entrap you or to get you to sign a confession etc.
Documents and Translations: Never sign documents that you do not understand! If possible, get your own trusted lawyer and translator. Lawyers and translators supplied by the local police etc. may not be working in your favor or translating questions and documents incorrectly.
Being Charged: If you are formally charged and given a court date you will need a decent lawyer who should try to get you released on bail or house arrest as soon as possible.
Questioned Under Duress: You can take it for granted the police will try to intimidate you into giving false statements, signing documents and in many places will ignore your legal rights. All you can do in these situations is stick to your story and wait for those you are working with to arrange the proper lawyers and legal support. If you are assaulted or tortured try to keep a record of your injuries, medical attention that you required and hospital visits etc.
Documentation and Evidence: If you or your team have documentation, photos, videos or other evidence you need to keep it secure. At the time of the arrest do everything possible to share evidence with those not directly involved in the incident. If you have photos and videos on your smart phones and they are sized by the police, the evidence will be lost, or the phones will disappear. Consider having all photos, videos and documents on operational phones automatically synchronize and backed up to a cloud storage account that other team members and trusted associates have access to.
Jail: Even in 1st world countries jails are very dangerous places and those not used to such environments can suffer intimidation, violence and sexual assault. Personal security and safety must your priority and everything from hygiene to receiving proper food must be considered. This is where support from team members is essential to send you food and supplies or money to purchase food and supplies. Even though violence is common in many jails be very careful if you’re involved in any hostile situations and do not to inflict excessive injuries on any opponents, as you could end up being charged with additional crimes. If possible, try to make friends with respected prisoners who could help you avoid potential issues with other prisoners or guards.
Support Groups: Alerting political contacts, charities and community groups can raise awareness and support. In some cases, the intervention of local or foreign political representatives can speed up cases going to court and lead to the early release of prisoners.
Media: The media is a double-edged blade; it can work for you and against you. Trusted media contacts can help raise awareness of your arrest, which might prevent you from disappearing completely… But information and interviews given to unreliable media outlets can be edited and spun against you! Try to ensue that media reports that are given in your favor do not criticize the police, judges or government of the country in which you were arrest and are detained in.
From this short article hopefully, I have made it clear that you do not want to get arrested! As part of your basic planning you should have worked out your protocols on what to do if involved in an incident that could lead to a team member or the clients arrest. If you listen to the advice form most embassies, they will tell you to contact and cooperate with the local police if you are involved in a confrontation etc. Well, my advice would be that it may make more sense and save a lot of trouble and money just to get the out of the area or country as quickly and discreetly as possible.