Four months after graduating from St. John’s University in 1974 with a degree in criminal justice, Lew Rice was sworn in as a special agent with the then-newly formed Drug Enforcement Administration. By the time he retired 26 years later, he had been given assignments in New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Kingston, Jamaica. He had also become the special agent in charge of the New York DEA office, and written a book, DEA Special Agent: My Life on the Front Line (Dorrance Publishing Co.; $12), outlining his ascent in a dangerous industry as well as his involvement in the heroin investigations of Harlem drug lords Leroy “Nicky” Barnes and Frank Lucas. His extensive experience working with local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies had also prepared him to oversee the changing environment in the area of corporate security.
Today, as vice president of Global Security and Trademark Protection for The Estée Lauder Cos., Rice is in the ninth year of his second career, managing a team of 31 security executives throughout the world. His responsibilities include playing a key role in the development, implementation, and execution of the companies’ crisis management plan, as well as investigations, loss prevention, and supply chain security; travel security as employees travel to challenging environments around the world; executive protection; and special event security for special events and launches.
Here he explains how he managed the transition and how his background prepared him for a new opportunity.
How has corporate security changed?
Prior to 9/11, the corporate security industry, for the most part, especially global companies, had a professional in that position, but not necessarily one trained or knowledgeable in law enforcement. After 9/11, the discipline changed dramatically. The terrorist attacks showed that civilians could be the target of terrorist groups. A lot of companies began to look at their security function at that time. Some of my peers got a bump up and some got shown the door. Corporate executives realized that they needed to hire somebody who really knew that discipline and had strong relationships with contacts in federal, state, local, and international security forces around the world to bring the right information into the company.
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