For a little while now, I’ve been looking for a good way to give a ringing endorsement to Left of Bang. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this book, it provides guidelines and instructions on how to look at individuals and environments in order to detect early warning signs and indicators of impending danger.
The term Left of Bang refers to the attack timeline where Bang (in the middle) is the attack. Everything to the left of it is what precedes the attack, and what’s on the right is what follows. Left of/before the attack is the time for proactive prevention. Right of/after the attack begins is when reactive countermeasures take place. Left of Bang is obviously where we’d want to stay, and in order to do so, we’d want to detect early warning signs, which we can then disrupt or avoid in order to prevent the attack.
This idea should be very familiar to anyone who’s been following Protection Circle. Most of what I write discusses how to detect indicators of hostile planning and how to prevent attacks before they reach their execution (or Bang) stage. Left of Bang gets into the fascinating details of how people should be evaluated and profiled in order to make actionable decisions in the field.
Now, I could just stop here and tell you to go read this excellent book. It’s possible that you haven’t yet heard of Patrick Van Horne, Left of Bang and the successful US Marine Corps Combat Hunter program, which has saved countless lives. If this is the case, go get Left of Bang right now. This book isn’t just good, it’s important. If you liked Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear, you’re going to love Left of Bang.
However, to those who have heard of it but still hold some misgivings (I know you’re out there because I talked to a few of you), let me just say that I know how you feel because I too had a few misgivings. In fact, it’s precisely because I had them that I’ve become such a cheerleader for this important book.
For starters, the book itself takes care of most, if not all, of the issues some people have with systemizing behavioral profiling. But if you still have a misgiving or two after you read the book, that’s also fine. In fact, it’s more than fine, it’s important because it makes you think and challenges your conventions. As it has for me.
I too have written about profiling, and have dubbed my take on it Inductive Observation. It was in fact this article, and the slightly different way I look at the subject of people-watching, that caused me to reach out to Patrick Van Horne, one of the authors of Left of Bang and the CEO and co-founder of The CP Journal.
Patrick and I had corresponded about our different takes for some months, and I was really pleased when he was invited to present at the IPSB Close Protection Conference in Las Vegas. It was the first time I had the pleasure of actually meeting him in person.
During his presentation, Patrick mentioned our slightly differing viewpoints, and explained that looking at things differently is great as long as you keep looking. Our ongoing debate centers on my opinion that profiling should also be applied to chosen appearance (clothing, footwear, carried items, hairstyle, etc.) in addition to behavior. There are, of course, rules and exceptions, pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and our back-and-forth discussions about this proceed happily from there.
Though Patrick and I are in agreement on almost everything, I want to mirror Patrick’s statement that it’s OK to disagree (it’s actually important) as long as you keep looking and thinking about what you’re seeing. In fact, I want to use our small disagreement to springboard my strong endorsement of Left of Bang.
Security professionals tend to get very set in their ways and protective of their strongly held beliefs, especially when they can back them up with personal experience. You see this any time question of firearms, Executive Protection, risk assessment and hand-to-hand combatives come up. And yes, you can also find it when discussing different ways to screen and profile people.
But it’s important to get challenged. All learning is a challenge. And even if you still think you’re right and someone else isn’t, hearing them out (or reading them) will serve to sharpen your own convictions—like a blade that gets challenged by a sharpening stone. As I said, Left of Bang is an important book that everyone from any walk of life should read.
Please also check out The CP Journal, where you can learn more about Patrick’s Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB), which provides training to the military, law enforcement and private security industry in behavioral analysis and threat recognition. It also has an excellent blog which I’ve been following for some time.
To borrow Patrick’s line: “Get Left of Bang and stay there.”