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Public Service to Private Security

Robert Tucker's Lifelong City Hall Contacts Pay Off

November 30, 1999

By Bruce Balestier

When you spend so much time around City Hall as a kid that the police officers on the Mayor's security detail become your unofficial big brothers, it may be inevitable that you end up with a career tied to law enforcement.

It turned out that way for Robert Tucker. Having translated his early education at City Hall (where his mother was a part of the Koch administration) into a wealth of contacts at city agencies and an eight-year stint as the special assistant to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Mr. Tucker has now, at the tender age of 29, left the public sector to become the majority partner of a Manhattan private security concern.

His business, T&M Protection Resources, provides contract security, executive protection, investigation and explosive detection services to a variety of corporate clients, particularly in the Wall Street area. "Robert is one of these boy wonders," said Diane Coffey, who as Mayor Koch's chief of staff watched Mr. Tucker grow up. "I would say that with this job of his now, he has realized his dream."

A native Manhattanite, Mr. Tucker grew up on the Upper East Side, where as a boy he would follow fire engines on his bicycle as they responded to calls. He began his training in city government at about age 10, tagging along to City Hall and Gracie Mansion as his mother worked in Mayor Koch's Office of Special Projects. He frequently volunteered to work small jobs at events like parties, city dinners and visits from foreign dignitaries.

Ms. Coffey remembered the young Mr. Tucker as such a constant presence that he was essentially adopted by the police officers on the mayoral detail. "He was captivated by his mother's job and the comings and goings of the city," she said, "and always by the mayor's security."

Spending more and more time around City Hall, Mr. Tucker soon found himself joining cops as they responded to emergency calls. "I had always wanted to go out to disaster scenes," he said. "All of a sudden I was doing it, and I wasn't on my bike anymore."

Later, in his mid-teens, Mr. Tucker worked as an intern in the Manhattan Fire Dispatcher's Office, the nerve center of the Fire Department's response system for fires in the borough. "I got a real bird's-eye view of how the 911 calls come in, how they get processed and how the fire trucks are dispatched," he said.

After graduation from Fieldston School in Riverdale, Mr. Tucker mover to George Washington University, but between semesters he kept up his contacts with the police department. And he continued to work at city agencies, including a summer at the Emergency Medical Service on a project that put defibrillators in all city ambulances.

By the time Mr. Brown left the Appellate Division, Second Department, bench to become Queens District Attorney in the summer or 1991, Mr. Tucker had become so well-known in the city's law enforcement circles that a mutual friend suggested that Mr. Brown hire the 21-year-old to help smooth his transition.

Youth Was an Issue
Mr. Brown recalled that his initial surprise at Mr. Tucker's youth soon gave way. "Interestingly enough, here was this young kid who had just completed his junior year in college who had this extraordinary knowledge of the New York City law enforcement community and what makes it tick," he said. "He was extraordinarily helpful that summer."

Mr. Tucker spent much of his time accompanying Mr. Brown on ride-alongs with police units and visits to crime scenes, as part of an initiative to create a cohesive relationship between the office's prosecutors and the police department.

John M. Ryan, the Chief Assistant District Attorney in Queens, said that Mr. Tucker's seeming lack of experience was at first a frequent topic of conversation in the office. "Everyone's first reaction was, 'He's so young.' And I always said, 'Don't worry about his age. It doesn't have anything to do with anything.'"

Mr. Tucker agreed that his age was unavoidably an issue. "It was very difficult. My youth rubbed a lot of people the wrong way," he said. "I think I was able to overcome it through dedication and by giving quality information to the District Attorney."

Mr. Ryan said that he was amazed to see that Mr. Tucker's network of connections reached to the highest levels of city government. "The ability to pick up the phone and get through is an enormous benefit," Mr. Ryan said.

When Mr. Tucker graduated from George Washington in 1992 and expressed his interest in returning to the office full-time, Mr. Brown agreed readily, with the condition that Mr. Tucker go to law school, something that had never been among his aspirations. Mr. Brown joked that Mr. Tucker agreed to the bargain "kicking and screaming."

Attending classes at Pace Law School at night, Mr. Tucker worked as liaison between Mr. Brown and the law enforcement community and also as the link between Mr. Brown and the rest of the office, a position he likened to being in the District Attorney's inner cabinet.

Mr. Tucker continued to work on the ride-along program and supervised the office's hotline for public questions. And he acted as a sort of crisis manager, alerting Mr. Brown to emergencies or high-profile crimes at any time of the day or night. "Robert was the first line of defense as far as this office was concerned and would be the first from the office to respond to the scene," Mr. Brown said.

"I don't believe we could have accomplished what we did in terms of professionalizing this office without Robert's involvement and his dedication and his commitment," he added. "He's someone who is wise beyond his years."

Security Company
By 1998, with more than seven years' experience in the office, Mr. Tucker was contemplating his next move when a conversation with an ex-police officer working for a private security company made him think of his own possibilities in that arena. "I thought, 'Wow, I know so many cops, I could probably do something like that,'" he said.

A friend put him in contact with a retired NYPD detective named Robert Trotta, whose company, then known as T&M Security Service, had been providing private security since 1981. A months-long courtship began in which Mr. Tucker finally convinced Mr. Trotta to sell him a 90 percent equity stake in the firm.

"I was very impressed with him as an individual, at what he managed to accomplish at such a young age," Mr. Trotta said.

As a part of the deal, Mr. Tucker insisted that Mr. Trotta remain on board for at least a couple of years to guide him through the sorts of financial minefields that he had not faced in the District Attorney's Office. "There were new challenges for me here that made it absolutely mandatory that Bob stay on," Mr. Tucker said.

T&M's business does not include the blue blazer and gray pants-clad officer that is most people's mental picture of a security guard. Most of the firm's personnel come from military or law enforcement backgrounds and are typically called for a more discreet security presence.

"Where we don't go is in the retail stores," Mr. Tucker said. "We're going in the private galleries and other places where people appreciate the difference in our service." The firm's clients include the New York Stock Exchange, Christie's, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs.

A delicate aspect of the firm's business involves doing investigative work for clients, including background checks, pre-employment screening and surveillance. "We're doing all this in a real high-level corporate environment with people who might ordinarily be put off by investigation," Mr. Tucker said. "And we're sensitive to that."

In some ways, Mr. Tucker said, the demand for T&M's services is a sign of the times. The company's offerings include a team of bomb-sniffing dogs, whose importance was reaffirmed last month when an explosive device was detonated on Wall Street.

"There's a real threat," Mr. Tucker said. "And there's a good argument that the highly trained security officers we provide in the Wall Street area are a very good deterrent."