Executive Protection Lessons in Light of Pope's Close Call in Brazil

By Robert L. Oatman, CPP
Like the royals’ London episode in 2010, the papal motorcade incident in Rio is a reminder that executive protection is a serious business where mistakes can lead to grave consequences. Near avoidance of disaster is not the goal. Full-time EP specialists, and every security professional occasionally tasked with personal protection responsibilities, should remember the following:
·       Most attacks against protectees occur in or around automobiles. Beware.
·       Crowds are unpredictable and hard to control. Avoid them whenever possible.
·       If a drive through packed streets is necessary, it is essential to develop primary and backup routes, with emergency resources (police, hospitals, etc.) identified along the way. Stick to the planned routes; that’s where the help is. A tested, safe secondary route could come in handy if the primary route becomes clogged. Another benefit: if the protectee asks to go a different way, for whatever reason, the EP operation will have at least one acceptable alternative to suggest.

·       It is reported that the Pope’s driver turned into the wrong side of a boulevard, missing the cleared route. The lesson is to make sure the driver has driven the routes in advance and recognizes all the twists and turns. If a lead car is used, its driver, too, should have driven the routes in advance so that he or she will not accidentally lead the protectee’s car astray.

·       The most dangerous times are arrival and departure. Keep the speed up. Getting stopped and swarmed by a crowd is a disaster waiting to happen. This is the ideal time for a lone gunman or other adversary to attack the protectee. If an assault is launched, there is no escape route. If the protectee is injured, medical personnel will not be able to reach him or her.
·       A bullet-resistant vehicle is no panacea, but it can buy time. It’s like a safe room on wheels. Eventually it can be penetrated, but it can provide a few extra minutes of refuge while the driver tries to move the car to safety or emergency personnel race to the scene.  
Any protectee—Pope, prince, or CEO—may make choices that increase risk. It is up to the EP specialist to rise to the challenge, provide advice when feasible, and at all times minimize danger through preparation, avoidance, speed, and attention to detail—in other words, the art of executive protection. 
Robert L. Oatman, CPP, a noted executive protection expert, is president of R.L. Oatman and Associates, Inc.


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