Charlotte's International Bodyguards
Stakeout vehicle. Monty Clark (only his knees are pictured at his request) has been a private investigator for 27 years. In a low-key ceremony at Charlotte's Duke Mansion a few weeks ago, 12 men and one woman were appointed to a specialized team of international bodyguards. And this team's whole business revolves around protecting executives, a potential boon when the DNC comes to town in September. Duke Mansion's conference room is full of people dressed in law enforcement uniforms and suits. Several men have short-cropped haircuts and broad shoulders that stretch the fabric of their jackets. They are all here for an appointment ceremony. But this doesn't involve the military, the city fire department, or the CMPD. This is the birth of the International Executive Protection Unit. It is a team of private police especially assembled to guard corporate executives around the world. So think of a Hollywood version of some special ops group. Whether it's Mission Impossible or the A-Team, there's always a formula, right? You've got the stereotypical, smooth-talking brains of the operation. There's the brute force bruiser. Then there's the striking brunette perched on high heels. Alexis Bell, a certified fraud examiner, is in charge of intelligence for the team. "I do advance work, so, for example, if the principal is going from city to city to city, then I go ahead of the team, says Alexis Bell. "And I talk with the hotel people. I talk with the restaurants. I find out about the area. Puting together the routes and the contingency plans. Things like that, so all of the intelligence work is what I'm responsible for." Alexis is in charge of intelligence, and she's got a degree from Cornell with a background in corporate fraud investigation. She's the only woman on this team of 13. The International Executive Protection Unit is actually an arm of Metro Special Police, a private security company based in Southeast Charlotte. So, how about another character? The brute force bruiser. "It doesn't get exciting in my business until something happens. Period. Okay?" says Monty Clark (pictured, above), a veteran private investigator. He's been in the game 27 years, and he's built like a bull. 250 lbs. He's got this intimidating bald head and a thin, white goatee. But to be honest, Monty's also got a relatively gentle disposition. And that's probably because most of his work involves surveillance - long, quiet hours in his car on stake-outs. The Metro special police cars are outfitted much like regular police cars, with lights and a cage in the backseat. We met at a McDonald's and actually did the interview in his car, the only vehicle in the parking lot backed into its space in a corner. Monty says that's how he always parks. So he can see everything. Because he's a licensed P.I., his role on the team is to handle things like doing background checks on the people who their clients will be meeting. "You never know when certain individuals may havesomeone out there may have a vendetta towards them, and they want to be able to go to a particular venue and go there and be safe about it," he says. "And that's where we come in." Since the team just recently formed, Monty is still waiting on his first assignment. But he's ready. "And I don't know what or when the details will come up. Karl's working on that aspect of it. I just know that when he calls and says, 'I need you here,' I'll be there," he says. "No matter where it is. We'll go." Karl de la Guerra is the director of the International Protection Unit of the Metro Special Police company. And that brings us to the "Karl" that Monty mentioned. Karl de la Guerra, the well-spoken front man of this international bodyguard team. "Our team specializes in what's called corporate executive protection, versus what many people are familiar with: PSD, or protective services details as you see contractors doing in Afghanistan, the running and gunning of the industry," he says. Karl's had a 31-year career as a bodyguard. He's bald like Monty. He's barrel-chested and charming and the American representative for the Hungary-based International Bodyguard and Security Services Association. He approached Metro Special Police last October about forming the International Executive Protection Unit. He recruited the team, organized their training, and ultimately appointed them at the Duke Mansion ceremony. "This truly was an international event today that we put on to really give recognition and give note to a team that's located here in Charlotte that will be taking the Charlotte reputation internationally," he says. The team is still looking to land its first international assignment. In its own backyard, however, a host of potential local assignments abound with the approaching DNC Convention. Now, Karl says he doesn't have any convention-related business yet. But he's been asked that question a lot. And he says if he is approached, he'll evaluate those jobs the way he would any others. His vision for the team remains broad. "The DNC is a short term event that's coming to Charlotte," he says. "This team is not, as I said before, this team is not being put together for one particular event. This team is being put together for long term international operations. That's what this team is all about." Metro Police uses airsoft weapons in addition to other equipment for training. And while the team waits, it trains. Part of the team's training includes a "low light" scenario where the agents identify targets when entering a dark room. At a non-descript office park near the Metro Special Police headquarters, Karl leads exercises. The team members simulate protecting their clients with airsoft handguns, these are guns that shoot these plastic little bbs. They're popular with kids. But they're perfect for training, because they look like real guns. The bodyguards enter a dark room, fire at targets on the wall, and roll out quickly. It's preparation Karl hopes pays off financially. He says the average rate for a bodyguard is about $1000 per day. That's a lot of action, considering one of Karl's tenets of bodyguarding. "A good day for us is when nothing happens," he says.