Guarding Royal Families for $1,000 a Day: Inside Executive Protection Jobs

Monica Duperon Rodriguez welled up with feelings of awe when she stepped off a charter flight onto the Serengeti in Africa for a job assignment.

“The thought that came to my mind was: ‘This poor girl from this police department is standing in the Serengeti,’” she said. “I would have never in my entire life imagined myself being there.”

A layperson might mistake the job that swept her across the ocean as “bodyguard.” Professionals trained to her level of diplomacy, communication and planning earn the title of “executive protection specialist,” or E.P. agent.

Ms. Rodriguez said her training started early. As the oldest child growing up in a one-bedroom apartment supported by a single mother, she felt a need to protect her three siblings from the drugs and drive-by shootings in her Chicago-area neighborhood.

She spent three years in college while working a full-time job and caring for her two small children. After taking some time off, she was sponsored by her local police department to attend the police academy because it needed female officers, especially ones who spoke Spanish. She chose the academy instead of finishing her college degree.

Ms. Rodriguez worked in law enforcement for 15 years, much of it in Florida, first as a narcotics detective and a hostage negotiator on the SWAT team, and then as a corporal detective in the burglary division.

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