By Jeffrey Hawkins
If you have been following the news in the last few months you probably have witnessed the “New World” Pope Francis and his approach to being Pope; it is obvious he wants to be known as the “people’s Pope” and shed all the “pomp and circumstance” of most of his predecessors.
If I were in charge of his security I think I would have to quit.
You might have seen in some of his recent travels where he was driven around in a Ford Focus in Italy and recently a Fiat in Brazil, where his motorcade made a wrong turn, got stuck in traffic and the car was mobbed.
I truly appreciate the thought behind the Pope’s shedding of the image of a bullet-proof Mercedes and instead trying to appear more accessible to the people, but someone needs to talk to the Pope about the risk he is posing to everyone around him.
This is something I have encountered over the years working with Secret Service, State Department DSS, and running my own executive protection details – many times the “protectee” doesn’t like being told what to do by security people, be it a president or an executive.
One organization I worked for the board of directors ordered protection for the CEO on all travels after we uncovered credible threats. He never had it before, and like many presidents and high-profile people, they quickly learn it is not as glamorous as it looks on TV.
After several trips the CEO said he did not want the protection anymore, he had no privacy, and that he didn’t appreciate being followed into every public restroom by me or a member of my protection team.
I told him that it was no picnic for us to go to the bathroom with him either, but he was as vulnerable in a restroom as he was anywhere else in public AND it wasn’t his decision to call off the protection since it was an order given by the board, and our corporate legal counsel concurred.
He was not happy, but learned to live with it.
What the Pope and many other public figures don’t understand is that, yes, the protection is for them because of their position, but it is equally important for the people around them.
Take a look at the Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting; she was the target, but lived, while many other people died. What if she had two security people there that day, be it private security, off-duty or on-duty law enforcement officer? The shooter, by all accounts, was not difficult to spot both in appearance and behavior before the shooting.
Look at the attack on President Reagan; yes he was hit but so were three others, including his Press Secretary James Brady, who never recovered – he was an innocent casualty.
I often tell people in my lectures and training that when I was doing a protection detail, knowing the intelligence threats I knew, the last place I would want a member of my family or a loved one was near that person.
Be it a shooter or IED, the target may not be the only one hit, if at all; it is the collateral damage that is the saddest part of these attacks.
And I believe that letting a high-profile person like the Pope become a soft target, for whatever reason, is only inviting an attack.