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Harpo Productions makes the news.

As you are probably aware, the TV mogul Oprah Winfrey was in India touring for her newest venture when her protection team got into a scuffle with Indian media personnel.  The result was that they were briefly detained, wrote a letter of apology and released.  So far there has been no comment from anyone inside Harpo productions.  According to news sources, the protection team responded after TV crews attempted to get “too” close to Ms. Winfrey.  I want to go over a couple of things that come to mind.

Authority:  Unless you are of official capacity, you have to remember that you are a GUEST of the foreign country and all country rules apply.  How do you get around that?  You can’t, however, if you have sufficient time on the survey trip or advance trip it is possible to liaise with local officials to possibly augment your detail.  This is not to put them directly on the close-in team, but to mitigate situations such as what occurred.  Local media in foreign countries, in my experience, know the laws and know you don’t have any authority.  Most of them, on the other hand, are scared of their local law enforcement.   One thing to remember in this whole recommendation is this, if your augmented personnel perform in an egregious and violent manner, you inherit the incident.  That being the case, you have to give clear rules of engagement.  In the video you clearly see some level of India police or military walking alongside Ms. Winfrey, however it was “her” security team that responded to the media.  As of today I have read that no American security were arrested, which means that if the brawlers Indian nationals she inherited the clash.

Status:  The profile of your notable will almost always dictate what you can expect to receive from the locals.  These guys should be used to the attention they receive when they are domestic and abroad.  They are used to the paparazzi and the media rush associated with their client/protectee.  to date, I have NEVER dealt with paparazzi, or media more aggressive than in Europe.  The fact is this, if the principal was anyone other than Ms. Winfrey, the three protection specialist would probably be still in a cell.  Ms. Winfrey’s idolic status surely got them the “get out of jail free” card.  Another thing to remember is that Ms. Winfrey represents all things American and western civilization.  That mere fact and considering the Mumbai bombings would exponentially raise the threat conditions.  Just something to think about.

Committment:  The video doesn’t show what other immediate action was deployed by the remaining members of the protection team.  The “Brawl”, as the media is reporting was addressed by three of the protection team.  Maybe to most that doesn’t mean anything, but to me the overall team lost a portion of its protective sphere.  For the sake of this blog, let’s say there were 5 specialists overall.  If 3 commit to a situation, the team has lost over 50% of it’s element in order to safely move her.  That is a significant amount especially if it is a diversion.

In no way was this an easy trip for those guys and I am sure they had their hands full.  I was not there and in no way second guessing anyone’s response.  What I want to convey is what you need to consider when you travel abroad: Authority, Status and Committment.

Here is the video:  Oprah Security Team

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