Close Personal Protection in action


An analysis of the evacuation of Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Australia Day 2012.

By Gavriel Schneider,
Executive Director – Dynamic Alternatives Group.

Now that the dust has settled, and the Prime Minister’s shoe has been returned, it is appropriate to conduct an assessment of the actions and the responses of the Australian Prime Minister’s (PM) security detail. This is an objective analysis of the incident that required the PM (The Right Honourable Ms Julia Gillard) to be hastily evacuated from an awards ceremony held at a restricted venue in Canberra on Australia Day, 26 January 2012. There are a few considerations that need to be stated before any points (positive or negative) are made.

1. There is an old saying that hindsight is 20/20 and that is true – it is easy to look back and say they should have done this or done that, but when under pressure, actions are not always logical or well thought out.

2. Without having been there on the ground it is very difficult to give an objective opinion. Having said that, even being on the ground does not mean that an opinion or assessment is necessarily accurate (based on adrenaline, perspective, etc).

3. It is also difficult to determine issues such as whether this activity was part of the PM’s set itinerary or whether it was an off-the-record (OTR) last minute event. In addition without knowledge of specifics such as how many Close Personal Protection (CPP) team members were present, how many supporting police officers responded, etc. it is hard to accurately assess the effective use of resources.

4. Lastly the compilation of an accurate, unbiased post-operational analysis is difficult to achieve at the best of times and is always subject to full information availability. This analysis was compiled based on information presented in the media. A more rounded assessment would have been achieved by interviewing proponents on both sides (protestors and protectors).

In order to assess the reactions of the PM’s CPP Detail, a basic overview of a CPP Details job and activities will be provided. CPP is usually referred to internationally as Close Protection (CP) as such the acronyms CPP and CP will be utilised interchangeably. The starting point of an analysis should be based on the CPP Operator’s/CPOs (Close Protection Officers) generic Job Description. This is identified as:

Close [Personal] Protection can be defined as implementing all necessary tasks and related activities by trained professionals in order to primarily ensure the safety and security of a designated person (‘Principal’). This safety also implies the Principal’s peace of mind and if possible physical comfort.

There are many different variations in definitions of CPO’s and their job description. However, irrespective of the complexity, detail or even simplicity of any of these definitions, there appear to be three factors that are common throughout. All three are contained and can be discerned from the above definition, namely:

1. Ensuring the Principal’s safety

2. Ensuring the Principal’s peace of mind (including protection from embarrassment and maintaining the dignity of the Principal)

3. Ensuring the Principal’s comfort

It also needs to be noted that any professional CPP operation should consist of four intersecting activities. Often referred to as the ‘standard operational process’ these activities are:

1. Assessing the threat and risk

2. Planning for the operation

3. Conducting the operation

4. Reviewing and debriefing the operation

As a point of significance, it should be noted that unlike many other security related tasks, CPP operations encompass holistic and integrated protection that incorporates different phases. These phases can be sub-divided into the following inter-related actions:

• Protection on-foot,

• In-transit protection (vehicular or other)

• Static Protection (Venue or residential protection)

• Transition between the foot, transit and static protection phases

It is also a generically accepted fact that as per the last point above, Principals are most vulnerable during the transition between these phases i.e. whilst embussing or debussing from a vehicle or whilst arriving or leaving from a venue. In reality, when providing protection at a venue, like the one being analyzed in this case-study, there are really only two options available for when reacting to a confirmed threat situation. These two options are loosely referred to as:

1. ‘hold’ (barricade the Principal until back-up and help arrives and/or until resolution occurs – sometime referred to as ‘shelter in place’) or

2. ‘run’ (evacuate the Principal).

Based on these two options and in terms of an analysis of the response of the PM’s security detail, one of the key questions that needs to be asked is why the evacuation as opposed to the barricade option was selected?

For the purpose of review and assessment of the operational activities of the PM’s CPP Detail a structured approach was utilised. This approach was done based on strategic and tactical considerations, subdivided into the four activities outlined above and tied back to the primary Job Description of a CPP Operative. The Australian Federal Police conducts the protection of the PMas the Highest Elected Office Holder in Australia. The review standards should rightfully take into account the resources, training, professional practices, as well as expectations & confidence of not only the Principal but of the community they serve.

It should also be noted that operations at this level should be part of an overall security operation encompassing various levels or “layers” of security (e.g. general area, venue, etc). CP becomes the inner most element when other layers have been breached or failed. For this reason, advance planning and communication between the supportive layers have a critical effect on CPP assessments and operational actions.

Standard operational process phase 1: Assessing the threat and risk

Strategic Considerations

For the purposes of this review, it was difficult to assess this phase, without actually having been part of these activities. In professional CPP operations the focus on ‘Advance Work’ is critical. The enemies of every CPP detail with regards to Advance Work and pre-operational threat/risk assessment are short cutting and complacency. This is especially relevant for operations that are being run ‘in your own backyard’. The fact that the function was at a known location in Canberra, where the PM’s security detail is based – The Lobby Restaurant, King George Terrace, Canberra ACT 2600 – may have meant that a specific detailed threat/risk assessment for the venue and the event may not have been conducted to the necessary depth and specifications that would have been applied for a venue at an unknown location.

Whilst hindsight, once again, is always 20/20 there should have been an assessment of other activities/events in the area where any CP operation is being conducted. Whilst this may or may not have identified outlined the gathering at the Aboriginal tent camp as a threat, it should have at least listed the likelihood of a potential protest action, which is commonplace when protecting any political figure, in particular on Australia Day when certain groups and issues have more significance.

There should have also been a thorough and comprehensive assessment regarding the venue itself. Simply assessing the venue over the internet should have identified that the venue is open on all sides and that attack could occur from various angles. It would appear possible that the assessment did not factor in the likelihood of having to deal with ‘unfriendly crowds’ or an assumption that other Police deployments may have presented a sufficient deterrent or physical presence to counter this threat. This finding is assumed based on the overall security response and reaction to the incident.

It should also be noted that whilst theory says a thorough risk and threat assessment should be done for each activity that a Principal undertakes, a lack of resources combined with limited planning times, often means that this phase frequently gets integrated with the planning phase and is often overlooked as a stand-alone activity. This is common place with Principals in the political environment.

 Tactical considerations

All competent CPOs are trained to conduct ongoing and continuous situational threat and risk assessments. This means that throughout an operation, CPP professionals are observing their surroundings and asking themselves questions like “what does this mean, what could happen, where do we go, what will we do etc.” The application of continual threat and risk assessment is especially relevant for CPOs working for High Profile / High Risk Principals. It appears that the levels of awareness of the PM’s detail were adequate as the protection detail identified the threat and took action before the PM could be harmed.

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