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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

PERSPECTIVE: The Imperative to Better Protect Our Elected Representatives in a Changing Threat Landscape

Commercial technology-enabled duty of care is an approach that enhances the ability to mitigate risks on a large scale over a wide area.

Elected and non-elected public officials are increasingly subject to personal risk from members of the public. As an example, according to data published by the United States Capitol Police (the law enforcement agency charged with protecting members of Congress), cases related to “concerning statements and threats against members” jumped from 3,939 in 2017 to 9,625 in 2021. Those threats to members and their families, staff and sometimes their supporters cross party lines and occur in both rural and urban settings. Recently, several of those threats have turned into actual attacks on public servants in their homes, at public appearances, and at their places of work.

The widespread and unpredictable nature of the threat landscape makes deterrence problematic at best, and prevention nearly impossible. Fortunately, technology to assist with consensual monitoring and alerting (in the event of an incident) – an important aspect of modern “duty of care” – already exists. While industry-standard physical protection is essential, it can be enhanced with cost effective, simple-to-use commercial technology(s) that does not compromise the privacy of people already living in the spotlight.

What is Duty of Care?

The legal definition of duty of care is a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the watchfulness, attention, caution, and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would use. If a person’s actions do not meet this standard, then the acts are considered negligent, and any damages resulting may be claimed in a lawsuit for negligence.

Duty of care as a concept for workers outside of “negligence law” has been around since the 19th century. The concept has evolved over time, with entire legal and insurance practices built around it. Businesses and agencies have created a loose group of compliance standards that must be met for insurance policies to be underwritten.

At its core, duty of care reflects an organization’s legal responsibility to protect its employees while in the office and traveling. Since there are liabilities associated, businesses have implemented industry best practices around being at least minimally compliant – such as pre-registering travel itineraries, providing basic threat briefings for travel areas, traveling on approved air and maritime carriers, and the like.

The current availability of configurable alerting and monitoring technology, increasingly adopted in the private sector, makes duty of care something that could and should be offered to elected and public officials as well their immediate staffs and families.

Technology Accelerates Duty of Care Capabilities

Effective access to configurable commercial solutions offers the core technology for starting on an organization’s duty of care journey. There is no easy solution when it comes to achieving a holistic offering: this is not something that happens overnight nor will in fact ever actually be ‘complete’.

However, commercial technology-enabled duty of care is an approach that enhances the ability to mitigate risks on a large scale over a wide area. The threat landscape has shifted too much to reliably say that any threats can be eliminated, making mitigation the immediate focus of a duty of care program. Employing readily available commercial tools is one of the few approaches that offers a reasonable ROI in the duty of care investment portfolio.

That is far more achievable and cost-effective now that even a decade back. Previous duty of care solutions required standalone signaling and alerting hardware (HW) devices, augmented with a nearby visible armed response. As a result, it was an option generally available on a campus to a large number of people via a traditional guns, guards, and gates security offering, or as a mobile solution available to very few senior elected officials.

Advances in the technology landscape over the past two decades now enable duty of care solutions that can be deployed rapidly across a multi-generational cohort with varying levels of technical savvy. For instance, the advent of GPS-enabled mobile devices makes the “tracking” portion of duty of care readily available. Abundant and cost-effective high-resolution cameras, microphones and commercial applications are also significant advancements to include in a duty of care architecture. Democratized access to these solutions expands protection beyond a small contingent of users to almost anyone who has a Wi-Fi/cellular-enabled mobile phone or wearable device.

A commercially based, configurable duty of care risk-mitigation strategy also enables organizations to transform and innovate, centralizing on an infrastructure that works across multiple hosting platforms that meet the diverse demands of mobile users. Agencies can further seek commercial systems that can be connected seamlessly at low/no cost to existing 911 public safety systems and/or dedicated armed response professionals.

Our Duty to Those We Elect

The industry, security practitioners and first responders have developed a collective bias toward what can be accomplished with duty of care solutions over the past 20 years. Easy- to-use solutions can be delivered immediately, enabled by the technology advances of this century and compatible with the hybrid ways that much of society – and certainly those elected to serve the public – now work. In the face of increasing threats and elevated personal risks, off-the-shelf commercial technologies warrant strong consideration as part of any foundation for mitigating risks to government officials and their networks.


The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email [email protected]

Paul Maguire
Paul Maguire is CEO and Co-Founder of Knowmadics, Inc, an innovative solutions provider that A serial entrepreneur, Mr. Maguire co-founded Knowmadics with Claire Ostrum in 2013, where he continues his track record of growing small businesses to successful acquisition.Prior to Knowmadics, Mr. Maguire served as President of Ultra Electronics ProLogic, where he managed the integration of small government IT contractor ProLogic following its 2008 acquisition by Ultra Electronics, as well as two other acquisitions worth a combined $128M. He had earlier served as ProLogic’s Vice President of Business Development and Strategy, driving the company’s growth from $1.7 million to $50 million+ over seven years, and ultimately leading to its acquisition.Mr. Maguire previously worked at Autometric as a project, program, and product line manager with both P&L management and sales target responsibilities. His product led Autometric’s 33% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over seven years, which led to Autometric being acquired by the Boeing in 2000.Mr. Maguire has more than 12 years of Board experience, and currently sits on the Boards of Knowmadics and professional services firm Markon Solutions. He frequently speaks as a subject matter expert on the uses of commercial technology at the United States Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security events, and at international conferences on Security and Counter Terrorism. Mr. Maguire holds multiple patents and is the principal author of two U.S. Military Remote Sensing User Guides for Multi-spectral Imagery. He also served for eight years in the U.S. Navy, including as an Iraqi Analyst during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

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