"His ignorance of the law and the Fourth Amendment should disqualify him from being able to wear a CBP badge - but maybe fear and detention is the new mission of the CBP and the Constitution is a mere suggestion,"
- Hassan Aden, Greenville NC Police Chief (ret)
Hassan Aden has a distinguished career of service, having retired as the Greenville NC Police Chief. He now runs a consulting firm that requires him to travel extensively around the country and abroad. At the Greenville airport, his name and face are recognizable to most of the agents. Not so at JFK, where he was recently detained for 90 minutes by Customs and Border Protection agents. While their reasons for scrutinizing Mr. Aden in particular are unclear, it seems that his name, very common among Muslims, was the initial red flag.
"Hassan Aden is like Bob Smith," Aden said in a statement following his detention. "I think there's a lot of rhetoric on travel bans, homeland security and measures around national security. I do think it has something to do with the new administration ... I don't think it's a coincidence."
Mr. Aden also believes that his American citizenship should have warranted a quick check of his passport travel history and perhaps a call to Greenville to substantiate his identity, and that such steps would have cleared him in a matter of a few minutes. Instead, continued to be detained while foreign nationals were brought in and released.
"This experience has left me feeling vulnerable and unsure of the future of a country that was once great and that I proudly called my own. My freedoms were restricted, and I cannot be sure it won't happen again, and that it won't happen to my family, my children, the next time we travel abroad, he wrote in a Facebook post. "This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world -- and its own people -- in an unprecedented fashion."
A statement to CNN by US Customs and Border Protection read, "Due to the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on specific cases, but all travelers arriving to the U.S. are subject to CBP inspection. At times, travelers may be inconvenienced as we work through the arrival process to ensure those entering the country are doing so legitimately and lawfully."
As a retired law enforcement officer, Aden was quick to acknowledge the, "difficult and dangerous" task that CBP officers undertake every day. "But when you're dealing with US citizens, reasonableness should [come] into play."
Shopping malls are soft targets, and desirable to many different kinds of assailants. The larger, higher profile malls around the world are high headcount targets for international terrorists, but even smaller malls in lesser known locations have a profile with built-in notoriety on a more local level. The potential for causing hysteria exists everywhere there are groups of innocent consumers.
Video surveillance systems have gotten much less expensive over the years, allowing many shopping malls to employ fairly sophisticated, centrally controlled systems with impressive clarity and ability to capture and archive days or weeks of footage at facial recognition-quality resolutions. And facial recognition software is more available and less expensive as well.
Security teams are increasingly finding the usefulness of plain clothed agents making soft contact with shoppers and positive touch experiences across all age groups. These contacts not only serve to enhance confidence among valued consumers in the environment throughout the mall, but subtly break down the comfort of anonymity that serves to empower the mischievous. Psychologically, having had contact makes a potential assailant or shoplifter identifiable, and many will likely move on to another location to perform their malicious deeds.
A recent Time Magazine article explored the expanding sophistication of the tactics employed by security teams to keep us safe to shop and be entertained in the malls and movie theaters around us.
Yesterday, January 2, 2017, we lost an American warrior and a creator of so much content that we love to brain cancer. Richard Machowicz was a Navy SEAL for ten years before becoming the host of the Discovery Channel's Future Weapons and Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior.
Mack was a SEAL for ten years, having served on Teams ONE and TWO. He had been a Naval Special Warfare Scout/Sniper and the Leading Petty Officer of Land, Mountain and Arctic Warefare. He was an accomplished martial artist with over 20 years of training and black belts in multiple styles, which led to his certification as an instructor in the Naval Special Warfare Combat Fighting Instructor Course (he taught the teachers who teach the baddest of the badasses).
Our condolences go out to his friends, family and brothers, and he will always have our gratitude for his service as a warrior and for so much great content as an entertainer and host.
In a civilized society, we take our safety in a shopping mall for granted. We should feel safe, especially in an affluent place like the Silicon Valley, where the most recent mall stabbing to make the news took place.
The Valley Fair Mall is a gem of a property in the Westfield collection. Even among their many impressive malls, it is an impressive collection of upscale retail shops, including an Apple store in the shadow of the mother ship. It's the kind of place where beautiful people meander about, exchanging smiles and pleasantries.
But at 7:21 last Friday night, an exchange became violent, and when the commotion dissipated, at least two shoppers had been stabbed and five suspects had run out of the mall (those suspects were, thank goodness and the San Jose PD, apprehended on neighboring streets by officers shortly thereafter).
Our operators have experience helping malls recover from violent incidents. In those situations, the objective is to secure the safety of the patrons as quickly and obviously as possible, so that the management team can broadcast the recovery to the consumer base and to the retail community. Here are the steps we've assisted to get the traffic back after the violence:
1. Reestablish an obvious, comforting presence for consumers and those who work in the mall.
Circle the security wagons and revisit the importance of customer service and soft skills. We will typically lead the charge with one or two Delta teams - pairs of plain-clothed, armed operators patrolling the mall strictly to prevent violence in the aftermath, and an increased uniformed presence. And we leak the news. Shoppers who come back need not be intimidated by exposed firearms roaming around, but those who would disrupt the safety of others need to be aware that there is a responding force of trained and capable operators. They quickly take themselves and their behavior elsewhere.
2. Spread the word among the store managers and their teams.
Delta team(s) will stop by the shops and introduce themselves to the retailers, so we can make it known that we are close by specifically for their safety, and to make our faces familiar in the event of an incident. Their staff will help make it known that security is a priority in the area.
3. Re-engage with local police and get their guidance for responding to emergencies.
Revisit and refresh policies for your security teams' procedures in particular types of emergencies and their expectations for police response and times.
4. Make re-engagement permanent.
Allow the incident to usher in a new culture of more open and more frequent communication between security staff and mall patrons and retail workers. Refresh security officers' objectives and procedures. Make consumers' experience pleasant in every interaction. Tighten the reins for habitual trespassers and shoplifters. Make clear who is welcome at the mall and how much the staff values their safety and appreciates their patronage.
Here is a link to the local news story.
Focus on his intentions would have given me the element of surprise. I carry a concealed weapon every day (with the proper permit, of course). I am required to qualify with my weapon, I am trained, and I practice often. In short, had I walked in on that situation, I would have been the right man at the right time. And let us suppose that the timing would have allowed for me to see the situation unfold, and that I was able to drop the assailant at the instant of his attempt.
Herein lies the quandary: Assailant raises his weapon, I draw mine somewhere out of his focus, holler for him to drop it, he does not, and I drop him. In that instant, we have two officers reacting, presumably drawing their weapons, to an ambush with someone shot and someone else holding a smoking gun. Yesterday I was wearing jeans, sneakers, and a green hoodie. Take the information you digested reading this paragraph and condense it all down to 1.5 seconds, the time you have to make a decision about what to do next. Amplify that information with the knowledge that your uniform makes you a target, your ears are ringing from the gunfire, there is panic all around you, and your occupation instantly puts you in charge of public safety. And then put a gun in your hand. What would your reaction have been? And know that your answer is really only valid if you can say what you have done in that situation because you have been in it.
I am confident in the intentions of the two officers who were on their break, enjoying a cup of coffee. I pray that in that situation, I am able to identify myself to them (again, everyone's ears are ringing and you don't know what anyone can hear or perceive when you say you're one of the good guys) before they drop the guy who just shot someone. But if, in the pandemonium of that situation, they neutralize the chaos of gunfire by shooting the shooter (you know, the one who happened to be dressed like the Unabomber), could you blame them?
Complimenting Security in the Dispensary Business
One of the most likely outcomes in the upcoming election is the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in California. As in Colorado and Washington, one of the biggest challenges that pot purveyors face is what to do with all the cash. With high value transactions, many stores are generating revenue in excess of $25,000 per day, and because federal laws prohibit financial institutions from accepting deposits from pot shops, those transactions are all in cash. Shop owners are faced with bags of cash at the end of a good day, and have to transport it.
Many shopkeepers simply take it home, and leave the cash in safes in their basements. In doing so, their safety rests in their concealment. Pack and transport quietly, look over both shoulders, make sure not to go home with a tail. Pay taxes and large obligations in cash, and try to keep attention at bay by using the banking system as sparingly as is functionally possible. For many, for now, this is the right - the only - answer.
Some of the most successful shopkeepers, however, enjoy added security by using executive protection operators to escort them when they transport large amounts of cash or product. Individuals or small teams, sometimes comprised of an operator riding along, appearing as a casual passenger, but providing armed protection and strategic observation of traffic and surroundings, and as necessary, complimented with a discretely armed motorcycle or second car escort to expand the protection perimeter. This measure of protection is designed primarily to identify a threat or an unnecessary risk, secondarily to avert risk by taking additional precautions, and lastly to neutralize threat in a robbery or kidnapping attempt. The more precautions and the more preparedness, the better the odds that everyone remains safe and the package arrives without incident.
Two incidents took place during Kim Kardashian West's recent trip to Paris for Fashion Week. First, highlighting the effectiveness of her personal security detail, Ms. Kardashian's personal escort thwarted the attempt by serial protestor/celebrity annoyer Vitalii Sediuk to plant a kiss on her posterior (click on the link below).
The second incident happened while her personal security detail was not protecting her. Ms. Kardashian West thought she was safely tucked away in the ultra-exclusive Hôtel de Pourtalès. Several assailants, at least one of whom was armed, entered the hotel, bound a doorman, and made their way up to the luxury unit. They forced their way into the apartment, tied and gagged Ms. Kardashian West, and stole jewelry worth nearly $9 million. Neither she nor her children, thankfully, were injured in the robbery, but was understandably shaken.
Her security detail, had they been on duty, would likely have posted an operator at the door or in the lobby, at the first line of attack. His presence would have given the opportunity to address the attack at the first floor, while the operator in charge of her care would have initiated her urgent evacuation plan or barricaded her in place and prepared to defend his position while awaiting a police response. Either way, proper security would likely have deterred the attack or allowed for an outcome where the assailants could have been apprehended and the robbery avoided. Or, said differently, an investment of a few thousand dollars would have averted a loss of several million.
Many of our team members have conducted undercover mall details in the past several weeks. These details entail augmenting existing uniformed security guard teams with our plain-clothed, armed, specially trained operators (most of whom are recently retired or active police officers). We wander the mall, blending in with shoppers, observing the crowds for odd behavior or escalating confrontations. We trail the uniformed security guards as they respond to incidents, discretely at the ready to quiet incidents that turn violent.
Last weekend's attacker in St. Cloud, Minnesota was stopped by an off-duty police officer who was, thank goodness, in the right place at the right time. Other shopping mall management companies are more proactive in their approach to keeping their patrons safer and their properties free of violence. How many fewer victims would there have been with operators in place? Would the attacker have chosen another place to target if word was out on the street that undercover operators were crawling this mall? What if the off duty officer had decided to shop elsewhere?