In 2002, Tom Parrella, owner and president of Bulletproof Securities, Inc., founded his contract security company to defend critical infrastructure and corporations against potential threats. Under a mission-driven, tactical exterior, Parrella has a passion and commitment to provide employment opportunities for the nation’s veterans, former military and law enforcement personnel.
That commitment has not only provided employment opportunities, but it has helped establish Bulletproof Securities as one of the preeminent security firms in the nation. With a package of select services, the firm serves a selective niche market of major corporations, agri-businesses, mining operations, utilities and other critical sites.
“There are probably 150-200 licensed armed security firms in Arizona, but we don’t compete with the armed guard security companies. As far as competition, we are not aware of any company in Arizona or in any of the nearby states that provides the services we do or operates at our level,” says Parrella.
Parrella is confident of his statements because he is confident in the knowledge, experience and commitment of the personnel that stand behind his statements.
He defines his firm as providing solutions for high-liability security concerns. Bulletproof Securities consults, develops and implements solutions for companies that have been threatened or are targets of potential threats.
“Once an issue has been identified, the liability of doing nothing could be catastrophic. We mitigate that liability,” Parrella said. We also focus on homeland defense and critical infrastructure issues. Most everything we do is interesting, but it is also highly confidential. For four years, we worked the United States and Mexico border in California, Arizona and New Mexico under a federal contract. We also travel out of the country to provide protective security details. However, Bulletproof ’s main focus is providing our services in our home state,” he says.
Parrella states 65-70 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure is privately owned and it’s up to those private corporations to secure and defend their property against potential threats and terrorist events. A few services related to protection of critical infrastructure include but are not limited to, threat and vulnerability assessments and threat response plans.
Bulletproof Securities also offers a quick-reaction force, or QRF. The QRF is a service designed to provide private companies the ability to lock down and defend a site at a moment’s notice. Each QRF plan is unique, designed to conform to each client, but the principles remain the same. Provide an overt security presence to prevent potential threats which have been identified.
Parrella says, “The majority of our business focuses on the corporate world, with a heavy focus on executive protection. We protect corporate executives, high net worth individuals and their families, dignitaries and diplomats.” Unlike the perception, a majority of this work is advanced planning. Bulletproof Securities follows all Department of State standards for dignitary protection in high-threat environments, which gives the company the advantage of the most extensive, professional and capable product in Arizona.
Another core part of corporate security is providing security specialists who handle issues such as high-threat terminations, workplace violence, workforce reduction and investigations. Many firms in the Valley may require a highly-trained guard force due to the nature of their business. Parrella states his firm also reviews and assists on policies, emergency protocols and training for both executives and employees.
Hiring Law Enforcement and Military Veterans
Parrella relies heavily on a strong, highly-qualified, experienced pool of military and law enforcement veterans. Many are special operations veterans. His team includes retired Navy SEALS, Recon and MARSOC Marines as well as Army Rangers. Parrella believes that hiring military and law enforcement veterans is not only a good thing to do; it is also a smart business decision.
“The experience, training, discipline and leadership skills that these men and women possess have been invaluable to the success of the company,” Parrella said. “Although a vast majority of the Bulletproof employees’ possess military and law enforcement backgrounds (many having had both); I understand that there are many qualities that can be obtained outside the military and law enforcement communities. Recruits with educational backgrounds in international relations; business management; foreign language and business marketing are often given the opportunity to meet the qualification standards.”
Along with hard work and an open mind, client interaction and customer service are critical components that all employees must be able to perform. Parrella notes that each person is an employee and not a contractor. With a diverse set of experience and backgrounds, Bulletproof is able to select the perfect employees for each operation.
The firm is run like a law enforcement agency and each employee undergoes a 20-step screening process from interviews to screening on the range, to drug testing and background checks.
“Our professionals are selected for different jobs based on their skill sets. For example, somebody who does a threat vulnerability assessment may come from a background of special activities which is where they may have trained with the CIA or FBI in the past to conduct the same type of operations,” he says.
Leading by Example
With more than 15 years in law enforcement and security, Parrella has a significant amount of experience and education in meeting the growing needs of his clients and his firm.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in justice studies from Arizona State University and his master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University.
His certifications include: law enforcement pistol and patrol rifle instructor, law enforcement less lethal instructor, DPS armed guard instructor, CCW instructor, M134G mini-gun operator, gang school certified, shotgun certified, vehicle borne explosives detection course certified, and sniper, counter-sniper and advanced sniper certified. He, as well as many of his employees, holds a security clearance through the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, DOD and the FBI.
He manages the firm in a professional, private law enforcement style environment. “I think that a lot of people perceive it as a military type firm, and I think it’s really the opposite,” he says. “As a contractor we’re not like the other firms you hear of on the news that operate in Iraq or Afghanistan. Our focus is on the corporate and professional sectors. Whether it is critical infrastructure such as a large power company or a Fortune 500 or tech company, companies in those arenas really demand a professional corporate demeanor as opposed to what people perceive as military.”
Parrella’s management style is to lead by example and he is still active in field work with his teams. “I still run a lot of our training curricula,” he says. “I would never ask one of our employees to do something I wouldn’t do. I enjoy the field work. Balanced against field and office work, I’d say I have a pretty fair split.” Parrella also acknowledges the success of the firm is due to the vast knowledge, experience and hard work of the command staff of the firm such as Travis St. Denis (former USMC MARSOC special operations) and Leonard Lawrence (former USMC and Department of State dignitary protection specialist).
Parrella targets his firm to a narrow segment of the security market. “Our services are not a replacement for existing guards a company is using. We are an extension of that team. Bulletproof Securities actually supplements the HR, legal and security departments with capabilities and options to minimize their liability. We see our firm as an awareness campaign, offering companies the ability to mitigate and control threats through ways they never thought they could. Our employees are held to very high standards and their abilities are remarkable.” For example, he notes the state requires eight hours of continuing education a year, Bulletproof Securities trains approximately 200 hours a year. They train on firearms, ammunitions, tactical medicine, defensive tactics, PSD driving and other related skills. In terms of firearms training, they require everyone to shoot and exceed the Arizona police officer standards (POST).
“Our standards are extremely high. Our background and experience is high and therefore when we screen a client we are very careful to ensure their security needs require our services. If we determine a situation can be handled by a standard guard firm, we tell the client. We would rather build a relationship than close a deal. We are also selective in whom we work for and maintain transparency with local and federal law enforcement. We strive to maintain great working relationships with law enforcement through constant communication.”
From War to Work
The firm’s primary trade area is the state of Arizona. The firm has had some federal work and in some cases a client’s needs will require service out of the country.
Parrella believes the quality of his people is one of the fundamental reasons behind his company’s continuing growth. “We are expanding personnel. We are adding more permanent contracts to our work list,” he says. “We’re getting ready to move into a new facility we have purchased that will increase our space to 25,000 feet.”
In addition to serving specific security needs of clients, Parrella is committed to serving the needs of his community. The firm has done work in support of Wounded Warrior events. They sponsor an event for Habitat for Humanity every year and they do some work for Toys for Tots for the Marine Corp.
Yet, it is his work providing employment for the nation’s military and law enforcement veterans that he is most proud of. “As the owner, my proudest moment when it comes to community and civic involvement is the fact that I can proudly say that I have put veterans who have just come home from the war to work.”
“I think it’s rewarding on two fronts. One is to see all these great individuals having a job doing what they love to do. In addition, it is rewarding to know that in some aspect we have been a part of keeping both corporate America and critical infrastructure safe. These are the reasons I started the company. It is very rewarding to see this vision come to life,” he says.