Robert Allenby’s 19th Hole Drives Case for Protection

What happened to Robert Allenby could happen to anyone, but when an incident involves a high net worth professional athlete like Allenby—ESPN ranks him 27th in all-time top money leaders at more than $27 million—the importance of personal protection escalates. Whether these multi-millionaires like it or not, high profile often invariably accompanies high net worth. Thanks to the ubiquitous presence of social media and the Internet, every moment in the lives of our socially-engineered celebrities is played out on a world stage. The exposure becomes more magnified and noteworthy whenever even the slightest hint of scandal or some type of wrongdoing surfaces. The reported tawdry combination of alcohol, injury, robbery, kidnapping, and strippers makes for a scintillating backdrop to a viral headline-grabbing storyline.

For the last several weeks, we have watched the saga of professional golfer Robert Allenby played out in the media. While some of the details of the events still remain unknown, Honolulu police recently confirmed the arrest of Patrick Owen Harbison on second-degree identity theft, second-degree attempted theft, and unauthorized possession of confidential information. Harbison was identified on surveillance video using Allenby’s credit cards. According to Allenby, over $20,000 in fraudulent purchases had been charged to his stolen credit cards.

Much of that night is still a mystery, but we do know that on the night after missing the cut for the Sony Open, Allenby went to the Amuse Wine Bar. Videotape shows him leaving the bar at 11:06 p.m., but Allenby does not recall the incidents that led up to him waking up in a nearby park without his wallet, credit cards, or phone, and with fresh cuts to his face and head. After returning to his hotel, Allenby posted images of his bloodied face on Facebook, claiming he had been beaten, robbed, and thrown from the trunk of a car; however, he later clarified that a homeless woman who helped him escape from the park had related those events. At this point, the police have not linked Harbison to a kidnapping plot and are not pursuing any other leads related to this aspect of the case.

With the benefit of hindsight, which always gives us perfect 20/20 vision, I’ve been able to dissect this situation to suggest some risk mitigation strategies to implement that would help to avoid a repeat performance. Let’s start with the victim in this case, Mr. Allenby. As I alluded to earlier, with fame and fortune comes media exposure and personal disclosure. The result is little to no privacy when in the public eye, which in this case was at a drinking establishment. The first rules of safety for everyone from college students to high profile individuals are to be aware of what you are consuming and never let your drink out of your sight. Someone could have spiked Allenby’s wine with some kind of drug that caused him to lose consciousness—and his wallet.

Another consideration is to surround yourself with people you can trust, who have your back, and who would never let something like this happen. Reportedly, Allenby’s caddie was with him, but that individual is better equipped for handing him a club to escape the dangers of the rough than spotting predators preying on the rich and famous. Personal protection starts with employing the services of a security professional who has experience in executive protection, protective advance measures, intelligence collection, and counter surveillance, which all combine to mitigate personal risk.

Here are some examples of what could have been done to safeguard Allenby from the unfortunate set of circumstances of that night in Honolulu:

Executive Protection

By assigning an executive protection specialist to accompany the protectee when in public areas, a trained professional is able to identify someone who is focusing an unusual amount of attention and interest toward the protectee or exhibiting signs of potential harm. Also, a person who is working—and not socializing—sends a clear and compelling message to the bad guys that they may want to reconsider their plans. This person should be a highly-skilled professional trained in protective security responsibilities, including access control measures and practices and the ability to screen and filter anyone seeking access to the protected individual.

Advance Measures

An advance provides structure to account for all events that comprise a schedule and can be conducted if plans to go to places like a restaurant, theater, shopping mall, or pubic venue are known ahead of time. Typically, the site is visited, points-of-contacts established, emergency egress determined, and familiarity with the location attained. Now if something bad happens, contingencies are in place to properly respond to and recover from the incident. To reach optimum protection, a thorough process is used to analyze appropriate risk control measures and implement interrelated countermeasures and protective security methods.

Intelligence Collection

Intelligence collection is mainly done through liaison with the proper authorities, specifically federal, state, or local law enforcement. These entities are invaluable resources to provide relevant information that could impact the person being protected or the event attended. Maybe there’s a planned demonstration and the police advise that the last time this group protested multiple people incurred serious injuries. Armed with this intelligence, the function can be avoided, saving some wear and tear on the client. In addition to this knowledge, appropriate and practical countermeasures and solutions can be offered to discreetly enhance the level of security while at the same time reducing the level of risk.

Counter Surveillance

Counter surveillance is especially important because it is one of the few security measures that allows for threats to be dealt with before they can develop into full-scale attacks. One common denominator of all the different potential threats—whether from lone wolves, militant groups, common criminals, or the mentally disturbed—is that those planning an operation monitor their target in advance. Regardless of the length of time surveillance is performed, the criminal or terrorist conducting it is exposed, and therefore vulnerable to detection. Because of this, counter surveillance—the process of detecting and mitigating hostile surveillance—is an important, though often overlooked, element of protective security operations.

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