The challenges for protecting Public Figures- The Macron Incident

The latest incident with French President Emmanuel Macron being slapped by someone in the crowd has once again fired up the keyboard warriors who take any incident (video or picture) such as this and claim how improperly the EP team functioned and what would they have done differently and, of course, be more successful. As a Greek proverb says ‘’Whoever is outside the dance (floor), can sing many songs’’ Meaning: It is easy to talk about something when you are not the one involved in it. 

As security practitioners, we must be very careful what we say online, keeping in mind, whatever you post online stays online even if you delete it minutes later. We should not criticize security details and/or the people involved because we do not know all the facts, details, limitations and the full story. When you post a comment on a 10-second video, you may not have the full story. You do not know what happened before or after the incident. What you see in a photo may not be the full picture. It doesn’t make you any more ‘’professional’’ when you try to spot the wrong moves in an incident where you weren’t involved and you do not know all the parameters: you are just assuming.

In this case, we heard many opinions:

‘’Why didn’t they keep standard formation?’’- How can you keep standard formation when your principal is anticipating close interaction with a member of the crowd? Greeting lines are extremely tedious and are one of the most difficult situations to read and provide protection.

‘’The reaction time was slow.’’- The reaction time always seems to be slower when you see an incident on a video over and over again rather than being involved with it in real-time in the field.

‘’They were lucky he wasn’t holding a knife.’’ – Actually someone did their job well and made sure he (or anyone else in the crowd) wasn’t holding a weapon. What most fail to understand is that these crowds are previously checked for anything that can be used as a weapon.

‘’Why didn’t they saw that coming?’’ – They don’t teach ESP at EP schools…

‘’Why didn’t someone teach Macron?’’ – Most protectees won’t sit down and learn from you about protection, they want you to protect them. It’s not their job to know how to do yours…Why do you think you’re employed?

Now let’s address some challenges for protecting public figures and try to make some rational sense of all of this.

Protecting people whose identity depends on the public, such as politicians, in this case, is very much different than protecting a C-Suite executive for example. A politician needs the interaction with public. They shake hands, hug, get pictures with and celebrate with large crowds. Having people like them is what makes people vote for them, and they need to look and act quite approachable to everyone in order to gain votes. If they don’t get the votes, well, then they no longer hold their current political position. They have to attend gatherings and events and most of those functions may be outside of your span of control regarding organizing it. You have to provide services as best as you can with what you have and minimize whatever limitations you can. 

In this case ‘’the unknown crowd’’ is the issue. The ‘’crowd’’ provides a good opportunity for the enemy to blend in, act and even escape in some cases. Also, as most public appearances are preplanned and announced, the enemy has the time to be prepared for the attack. And when we say attack, let’s clarify that “attack on your principal” is not only an assassination or physical harm but also an attack on his/her personality, reputation or by causing embarrassment. 

While most EP training schools focus only on physical attacks, have in mind causing embarrassing situations may be something your principal is particularly vulnerable and endangered by, thus it is something you must be prepared to prevent. Making sure the crowd has been checked for anything that can be used as a weapon doesn’t mean you are safe from an embarrassing situation. Paying attention to people’s hands and what they are carrying doesn’t mean you can be sure about the intention of a handshake. A handshake can become a pat on the shoulder or a slap on the face. How would you know the intentions of the handshake and act within 2 seconds to prevent it? You must be in very close proximity to do that and sometimes you have limitations on how close you can be with your principal, particularly when they are interacting with the public and potential voters. When any public figure decides he/she want to come within close proximity of a voter, you are required to break the standard formations and you cannot have security between the voter and the principal because they need that ‘’personal space’’.

Act too aggressive and they will perceive this position as very unapproachable, something that goes against your principal’s political campaigns. So you have limitations or adaptations to perform your protective job competently. 

Another thing to consider is that some protectees will appear uncooperative with you and your suggestions or directions. They will do the exact opposite of what you have instructed them to do or whatever the plan was because they thought doing something different was ok, safe or was suggested at the last minute by their campaign manager. Some protectees will ask you to protect them no matter what. The fact that they won’t consider changing their lifestyle, and you have to do your best, becomes another facet of the ever-evolving detail.

Have we forgotten the flying shoe incident with President Bush in a press conference in 2008? The red paint thrown at Mary Harney, Ireland’s Health Minister in November 2010? Berlusconi’s nose being broken and two teeth knocked out when a man attending a political rally threw the statuette of Milan’s Duomo gothic cathedral straight in his face in 2009? Eggs being thrown at Bill Clinton in Warsaw, Poland? Nicolas Sarkozy being a victim of a flying pie in 1997? The book thrown at Obama in 2010? The glitter attack on Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlently in 2011? Pope being attacked by a woman who jumped barriers at St Peter’s Basilica and knocked him down in 2009? The famous slap on Dimitra Liani Papandreou, the widow of ex Greek PM at her book signing by a woman who appears to be there to sign her book? Bill Gates’ “Pie-to-the-Face” fiasco? There are so many more similar incidents including paint, body fluids, pies, yoghurt, vegetables, flour and even flashing body parts such as the Femen members who went toplessness in front of the EU-Russia summit, in Brussels, in December 2012.

Can we criticize the EP team members involved in these incidents? Can we say that you would have done better after the incident has taken place? From the moment you have a complete crowd check for weapons, you are in a “secure” space. But what leads you to believe that you have a better understanding regarding the mental status of someone who appears to be a voter or a fan? Can you honestly guess his motives if he/she wants to slap, or spit or in some way embarrass your client?

If you haven’t provided security details for Public Figures, it may seem easy for you to criticize an incident like this, but criticizing what you don’t know and just assuming doesn’t make you right and it very well may show your ignorance. Instead, use this incident as a reminder that people will use anything to harm your client’s reputation and their imagination can be big and quite unpleasant. Keep it as a learning tool for yourself and yet another scenario in your head of what you would or wouldn’t do if…

Denida Grow

Managing Partner

LeMareschal LLC

Founder & CEO

Athena Worldwide

Athena Academy

Nannyguards

Close Protection Operatives Course, Crete Island, Greece, May 26th-June 2nd, 2012

Athena’s Close Protection Operative certification is the next generation in Close Protection training. Our course has been adapted to meet the particular training and educational requirements, specific to those students who are interesting to enter close protection operatives profession.

Basic Training: Level 1

Including:
-Principles of Executive Protection/Code of Conduct
-Solo Protector & in a Detail -Physical Security
-Protective Escort -Surveillance & Countersurveillance
-Protective Intelligence & Advance Operations
-Armed and Unarmed Combat/Krav Maga
-Anti-Terrorism (identification and and the terrorist cycle)
-Improvised Explosive Device
-Basic Pistol Training & Firearms Safety
-Event & Estate Security
-Behavioral Intelligence and Attack Recognition
-Dealing with Media & Paparazzi
-First Aid & CPR/AED

Our instructors are from Greece, UK and the United States. They brings ATHENA students unparalleled real world experience in protective service operations. Instructors that have served Prime Ministers, celebrities, CEO’s and other influential leaders will be teaching you.
We have an excellent success rate and once the course is completed we continue to work with our students to progress their development and assist their entry into the Close Protection world.

To learn more please visit: http://www.AthenaAcademy.com/

For applications please e-mail: charla@athenaworldwide.com

Athena Academy official FB page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=44528524966&ref=ts

Course cost is 1.100 euros ($ 1.500) and includes all training fees, accommodation with breakfast, transportation and tour on the island.

There are also payment schedules available to those who qualify. Deposits for this course are $600, and full course fees paid 3 weeks before starting date.

Application date open until April 30.

Section: Professional Advices from Experienced Close Protection Operatives around the world.

What do you expect?

Some helpful hints to getting your foot in the door.

By Jason Collins

CPS, Security Consultant, CP Instructor

You have taken the time to go through one of the many Executive Protection schools around the world. You’ve sacrificed time and money for this training. You’ve learned the core fundamentals to becoming a bodyguard. Now you are ready to break out and start working in the industry.

How do I do this?  First off, begin marketing yourself…..from this point on, YOU make or break YOUR future.

  • Network, network, network…..get to know potential clients, fellow operators, job opportunities.  The internet and today’s technologies, brings everything you need to begin, right to your fingertips. So utilize it…… your instructors, fellow students and former graduates are always a great place to start.
  • Due diligence and following instructions-  if you are on a job board site and see a job that interests you, DO NOT just apply for it….thoroughly read the post….if it says “in need of a Spanish speaking operator with 2 years experience in south America”, do not apply if this is your first attempt at finding work, you only speak your native language and you have never left your country.  Find out all the facts before jumping into something you have no idea about. Know beforehand, what it is you’re getting into.
  • Be professional…..again, you make or break your future.  You will most certainly be overlooked if you respond to a job bid or post with poor grammar and an obvious lack of professionalism. Sell yourself.
  • Know what you’re looking for … whether you want to go the celebrity, corporate, local or corporate warrior route, due your research. Utilize the resources out there for finding work in that specific niche.         Start small. Make yourself known to local LEO agencies, state and municipal government agencies. Your local mayor, political campaigns, domestic abuse centers and currier services and strike work details are all good starting points.
  • KEEP TRAINING.  I cannot emphasize this enough. Just because you’ve gone through a “bodyguard” school does not mean you’re ready to take on the world…..It is just the beginning….train often. Keep your skill set fresh and evolving. The more you train, the better you become.
  • And finally……apply with multiple agencies, multiple positions and multiple jobs. Always be on “a list” .  more often than not, things don’t “just happen”. Things (jobs/contracts) take time. Logistics and regulations have to be met and followed through. So be on the list so when and if it does happen, you’re there. If you bank everything on one job, you’re going to get discouraged regularly when that job fails to take place.

Hopefully, this can get you on the right track to finding work….always ask questions, be professional, have integrity and don’t burn bridges.

Working in the shadows

A professional close protection team isn’t limited to the close protection operator observed standing next to the VIP. There are often personal protection operators working and contributing to the VIP’s safety from a distance and who are never seen by either members of the public or the media. Their job is as equally important to the close protection mission as the team members who stand next to the VIP. They have to observe anything that appears suspicious, then investigate it, report it and take action on it.

Imagine this scenario: Your principal is going to take part in a charity event. As it is a high profile event, the guest list and other information have been released to the media in advance of the event. Since only a little information is needed in order to harm someone, (WHO they are, WHERE they are going to be and WHEN they will be there) any potential enemies of your client now have the time and information they need in order to make their plan and act against you. Given this scenario, what can you do to limit or eliminate any possibility of the threat against your client from being made a reality?

Your advance/protective intelligence team can investigate and gather information on the venue, the venue’s regular staff and any additional staff hired for the event, the other guests, allowing for the preparation of a contingency plan in case of any problems. They should also travel the client’s primary proposed route a short time before the client and observe for surveillance or anything that could prove problematic. It may also prove necessary to conduct a low profile security sweep of the premises prior to giving the OK to the close protection team to bring their principal in. It is unprofessional and dangerous to allow your principal’s entrance into a place that hasn’t been subjected to an advance security detail – the more thorough the advance the better however, if time doesn’t permit this then at least a cursory security sweep should be carried out first. Placement of undercover close protection operators inside the venue can prove extremely advantageous. Having them mingle with other guests is better still since a great deal of valuable information which could prove instrumental in ensuring the client’s safety can be obtained. Additionally, if anyone planning to harm your client is present at the venue, then they are unlikely to have accounted for the undercover operators, giving the undercover operators a distinct advantage. A female close protection operator can work very well in these circumstances, since most people will think she is just another guest. Being a part of the advance security/protective intelligence team isn’t easy, it requires patience, keen observation skills, the ability to blend in any social setting and the ability to move unobtrusively while being acutely aware of one’s surrounding environment. You have to be able to constantly scan and evaluate your surroundings and be able to observe anyone who could be a threat against your client. Persons ideally suited for this task would be military intelligence operators, police detectives, private investigators or others who have been trained and employed in an investigative role.

Denida Zinxhiria

Athena Academy Founder

http://www.athenaacademy.com