In recent years, the security of a number of world leaders has faced difficult times, with numerous attacks and serious incidents that have highlighted serious gaps in the protection of high-ranking dignitaries. The events of the past week are therefore a positive encouragement to those of us working in the field of executive protection.
The first incident took place in Amsterdam on April 12, during the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, who holds the unfortunate title of "most beaten President", as in just over a year he has been slapped twice at public events, under the helpless gaze of his security team. Fortunately, this did not happen in the Netherlands. When Macron arrived and got out of his vehicle (a moment that in executive protection we call "the seam") to greet the mayor of Amsterdam, two people ran towards him, but were intercepted and neutralized by the agents before approaching the mandatary. This success of anticipatory protection, achieved by stopping the threat relatively far from the executive, illustrates our profession's adage: "What bundles does not protect, what spreads secures." While the protection clustered around the president did not prevent the slaps, the extended protection stopped the aggression in a timely manner in this case. This is a basic, simple and effective strategy, and here we have a clear example of the "reinforced seam". Personally, I would prefer to eliminate it, but it worked quite well in this context. If you want to learn more about "stitching", I invite you to watch this video:
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Japan, still reeling from the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last year, solid operational design and the quick reaction of his protection team saved current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida from an explosive device attack on Saturday, April 15, in the port of Wakayama. The young attacker, from about 10 meters away, threw a smoke bomb that landed near the ruler, who was quickly protected and evacuated while security officers and, according to press reports, local fishermen subdued the assailant. From their prompt response, we can assume that these fishermen were what we call "shadow agents". The fact that the attacker could not get too close, that he was immediately neutralized by visible (and possibly covert) agents, and that the leader was quickly evacuated demonstrates planning and logistics far superior to that of the tragic Shinzo Abe case. While some might argue that if it were a different type of bomb, the outcome would have been different, it is important to keep in mind the strict gun control in Japan and related cultural conditions. Shinzo Abe was also attacked with a homemade device. While there is always room for criticism and improvement, what is most relevant is that after a quick intervention by security teams, the protégé, protectors and spectators were unharmed, which is commendable.
In both cases analyzed, we can see that the effectiveness of the response depends on a well-planned operational design and properly implemented logistics. Agents were available not only close to the executive, but also deep in the operational area, which allowed for immediate intervention both to safeguard the protected person and to neutralize the attackers. The aforementioned premise is fulfilled: "What groups does not protect; an extended formation secures".
It is relevant to mention that in both incidents, the attackers were neutralized using empty-handed techniques. A historical study covering 129 cases of attacks on prominent public figures in 60 countries over the past 123 years indicates that subduing and controlling techniques were effective in 11,63% of the cases, almost three times as many as firearms. This does not necessarily imply that hand-to-hand combat techniques are more effective than guns; they simply showed their effectiveness against certain types of threats that appeared frequently in the study.
It is therefore essential that protection professionals devote sufficient time to the development of these skills, as they can undoubtedly be of great use in situations of risk.