Bo Dietl Talks Security, Celebrities, Life and Future Technology
There are few Bisnow partners quite as accomplished as Bo Dietl. He’s solved homicide cases as an NYPD detective, met multiple presidents, and even worked in Hollywood. So when Bisnow sat down with Bo to talk about his company—Beau Dietl & Associates—we weren’t only looking to gain insight into what makes Bo one of the prominent figures in the security business, but also get a taste of all he’s done.
To learn more about Bo and his company, you can click here.
Bisnow: You've held a variety of security-based positions, including NYPD detective, co-chairman of the National Crime Commission, chairman of the New York State Security Guard Advisory Council and other positions. What lessons have you taken from all of these positions when creating Beau Dietl & Associates?
Bo Dietl: One thing that speaks for itself is the 30 years I’ve been in business in the private sector. After retiring from the New York City Police Department, I was catapulted into the security business.
My last case as an NYPD detective was the infamous Palm Sunday massacre, in which 10 were killed. Through this investigation I realized what this addiction to crack cocaine could do from firsthand knowledge of arresting the guy. This came into play in 1986, when I was very fortunate to be in the Oval Office with Ronald Reagan when I was running for US Congress and one of the issues when I was running was the crime and crack epidemic across the country.
I continued to be involved with Reagan and George Bush, who was Vice President at that time. I was very actively involved in Bush’s 1988 election committee on many of the crime issues across the country and in 1989, when Bush was elected, I was in the Oval Office with him and was appointed co-chairman of the National Crime Commission.
After that—as far as being involved with the state government, with Gov. Pataki and Gov. Spitzer—I was appointed as chairman of New York State Security Guard Advisory Council. We had meetings several times a year to look at the issues of security guards in the state, the licensing and the various issues that were coming up. We were trying to bring the security guard industry up to a higher level, but the problem we always encountered was the oxymoron people had. They wanted the best guard for the cheapest price, and I take exception to that because you can’t get that. You have to pay for the better person. Over the years, I learned utilizing military veterans gave us finer quality security personnel at bank branches and financial institutions like JP Morgan. The more experience we got, the more knowledge about the industry we gained.
As far as the investigation side of things at Beau Dietl & Associates, we’ve done almost every type of investigation. We were at the forefront in the early 2000s with the big pharmaceutical companies out of Washington—where we did a comprehensive, multimillion-dollar investigation on the dangers of imported drugs into the US and kids buying drugs on the Internet. I became a lobbyist for Big Pharma in Washington to try to get the drug bill passed, and when it did pass, we showed the dangers of kids going online unsupervised. We were on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and I had my two children—my 8-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter—buying drugs online with the cameras going. Three days later, the drugs arrived in the mail and showed up on my credit card statement as “beauty supplies.” We’ve done thousands of investigations across the world with hundreds going on every day, and many of the investigations are easily dealt with.
Networking has proved to be one of the most important things in growing the business. I can pick up a phone and speak to almost any CEO of any corporation and I have a connection to them in one way or another. I think that’s the thing that jumps out. At the end of the day, you want to hire a person or company who has experience that doesn’t come from just school. The only way to become a good detective is by just doing it, and the more you do it, the more you learn to read people. Whether you’re talking to someone about a homicide case or talking to a CEO who’s embezzled money—you are using the same skills to tell if they are speaking the truth. It’s very important to choose someone who has been around and has a good reputation, and I believe we have one of the best reputations in the business.
Bisnow: So would you say this experience and network is what sets Beau Dietl & Associates apart from other security companies, or are there other things that you have that make you a prominent force in commercial real estate security?
Bo: We try to get the best-quality guards because we’re a boutique firm. We’re a firm that does around $20M a year; we could’ve expanded a lot more, but I didn’t want to bottom fish, meaning I don’t look for security jobs where you’re going to have someone making minimum wage. That doesn’t work. In reality, I’d be more suspect of my security guard making minimum wage because they need money and would possibly commit a crime. You really have to walk a tightrope with all clients. I have to tell clients that they have to pay a little bit more to get a better security person.
As for real estate, I was partners with Steve Witkoff for years. I was one of the owners of The Woolworth and The Daily News buildings, and, as a matter of fact, I met him at dinner last night (he’s breaking ground on a new hotel in Times Square and we’re doing security for that). I know a lot of the commercial real estate owners in New York personally.
Bisnow: What are the biggest mistakes many of your clients are making when it comes to their security?
Bo: You know what it is? Security isn’t tangible. They think they’re not getting anything out of it, but they are. If you get a better security professional in there, you’re going to minimize theft from your offices and accidents that are occurring in these buildings. When you have a professional person who can think on their feet in an emergency, that’s a big factor. Even though security isn’t tangible, let’s face it, since 9/11, security has been looked at and we’ve seen the federal budgets increase, and I think that flows down to the private sector as well. We all know the victims of terrorist attacks back in 2001, and I’ll say it outright: New York especially was, is and will continue to be a target for terrorism.
Now, if you have a sharp security person who sees a car parked on the block, sees two people in there taking pictures or something, he gets the license plate and knows what to do with that information, that’s invaluable. You can’t just have a dummy security guard that has no brain and can’t think on his feet. You want someone who, if they see a problem or a suspicious person, will go the extra mile. You can avoid a tragedy. We teach them how to report suspicious things. That’s the difference between a minimum wage security guard and a security professional who’s on the ball, can be taught and will absorb instructions.
Bisnow: How is BDA adjusting their mindset and security services for newer technologies and the Internet?
Bo: There are so many new technologies coming out and we’ve partnered with one of the top security building management technology companies. One of the things I bring up in speeches all the time and truly recommend is, on every shift, you should always bring in a former law enforcement person who is licensed to carry a firearm.
We can see what has happened on college campuses, in schools, and in buildings where an active shooter walks in there. What do you do with an active shooter when you have an unarmed security guard? You can’t expect an unarmed security guard to tackle a guy with a gun. We recommend a former law enforcement supervisor who can react to a person who’s armed.
When it comes to technologies, I love to show the technologies to owners and managers of buildings where they can, in real time, from their smart device, look at their building and security people and see what’s going on. We notify the people who are working that their superiors are observing them and that’s a good way to check what’s going on.
I also developed “One Tough Computer Cop” for parents to monitor their children’s Internet usage. Now I’m working on something really, really exciting. I’m a consultant for RSA, the security division of EMC, which was just acquired by Dell Computers. And cybersecurity, right now, is probably the most important part of any corporation. I am actively speaking about cybersecurity to corporations as well.
I feel we found the holy grail. It is where we can stop cyber hackers from removing personal information, i.e. security codes and personal identification numbers and any information from your cyber infrastructure. We all know one thing, you can’t stop a hacker from coming in. They’re trying to get your security codes from your keystrokes. When you type on your laptop or smartphone, they’re able to copy anything you type. Now with the security technology I just bought, you can encrypt all your keystrokes, and the hacker can’t get that information. It’s like if a burglar gets into your house, but everything is bolted down. He can’t remove anything. It’s going to be another level of security technology for cybersecurity and now you can stop a hacker from getting security codes, bank account numbers and everything they can take from your cyber infrastructure. It can also stop the hacker from taking a “snapshot” of your information off of your computer.
Bisnow: Of all the people you've met, who have you had the most interesting interaction with?
Bo: I had dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio. I was working for Jordan Belfort in 1990s, the subject of Martin Scorsese’s —the greatest director of all time, in my opinion—The Wolf of Wall Street. I was working for that little creep back then and when they were making the movie, I played myself. It’s just so funny I pop up all around. In Goodfellas, I played the arresting officer of Henry Hill. In real life, as a homicide detective, I locked up Jimmy Burke, the one De Niro played, on two homicide charges. It's just so amazing how my life has touched upon all these incidents that have become major motion pictures.
Anthony Quinn and I used hang to out. There are so many celebrities I’m friendly with: Bruce Willis, Demi Moore, Denzel Washington, Angelina Jolie, Puff Daddy, Jay Z. I could keep going with these names. All these names people get all excited for, I’ve met them all. I look at them as my friends. I’ll be meeting with Martin Scorsese in a couple of weeks for a new project about my private investigation life. I'm real excited about my recurring role in Vinyl, an HBO series produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger.
I can pick up my phone and talk to Eric Schmitt, the head of Google—whom I had dinner with in the past at Rao's—or the former CEO of GE, Jack Welch. This is where the networking comes into play. You want to hire someone who has a robust network of people at their fingertips. I don’t mean to be braggadocious or a name-dropper, but I know these people and when I call them, most of the time, they pick up the phone.
But there’s one person I want to meet: the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. I think he’s the one person I haven’t met that I want to one day.
Bisnow: You've accomplished an incredible amount in your life, from solving crimes to meeting multiple Presidents and celebrities to working in Hollywood. At the end of the day, however, what do you find to be your greatest accomplishment?
Bo: My children. I have four kids and I’m proud of all of them. Now I have a grandson, which is a truly great accomplishment. That, to me, was like the best thing to ever happen to me. And now, that only gives me more strength to go do a good job and make the world a better place for my grandson as he gets older.
But on my other side, I didn’t want to retire from the NYPD—I broke my leg and ankle in half in 1985—and I never really wanted to retire. I loved being a detective and the investigations.
Then I was able to get this exposure when Nick Pileggi—who wrote Goodfellas—put me as the feature story in New York Magazine, “How New York Lost Its Top Detective.”
After my retirement, my congressman died in office—I didn’t know what a congressman did, but I learned. I went to Washington, Lee Atwater was alive, and he had me go through all these classes with Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. And when I first started, I thought Gramm-Rudman was a sandwich. Then I realized it was the balanced budget amendment.
From 1986, to working and becoming friendly with President Reagan and [then] soon-to-be President George Bush, and Jack Welch, Warren Buffett, you could go on and on. Along the way I wrote three books, produced a movie about my life and a TV series.
Everything in my life that I have tried to do, I have succeeded to the best of my ability. With that said, I bring that same drive to all of my clients. I can’t say what my best accomplishment is, because the best is yet to come.