The close protection forces providing security to the two remaining candidates for the French presidential race has been given a boost in the final days of the campaign, with 15 specialist police officers each providing 24-hour coverage to Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.
Known as “superflicks”, or “men in dark suits” that surround high profile individuals afforded police protection in France, the number of officers available to the political frontrunners has been boosted in the wake of the first round vote and as media and political attention focuses on the candidates. The assignment of 15 officers each compares with just four the candidates had for protection at the start of the campaign.
In addition to the close protection officers, the candidates are also covered by police snipers at large public gatherings, and Macron’s team has also hired a trauma nurse and doctor with experience of trauma casualties to remain close to the candidate at all times.
The change comes in the wake of a foiled terror plot that reportedly was specifically targeting French presidential candidates. Two individuals were arrested in Marseille just one day before Ms. Le Pen was due to give a campaign speech in the city.
Despite the foiled attack, French newspaper Le Figaro reports the remarks by a police source who said of the security boost: “The level of external threats has not changed, but we decided to increase the number of men.” The newspaper calls the presidential campaign “unprecedented”, with regards to risk from terrorism, in the history of French elections.
In terms of security provision available for individuals at risk, French police assess the danger and protection required for individuals on a scale of one to four, with one being the highest. Presently, Le Pen and Macron are on level three — at level two, the French state also provides armoured cars for protection.
In addition to the typical equipment carried by security officers, including a bullet-proof vest, radio, and handgun, it has also been revealed police protecting the presidential candidates carry tactical umbrellas of the sort previously deployed in defence of the current president, François Hollande and his predecessor.
Handmade in Cherbourg, France, the ‘ParaPactum’ umbrellas feature a carbon fibre titanium stem and vanes, and a triple-layer kevlar fabric canopy and a spring-loaded mechanism which opens the umbrella instantly in case of attack. Strong and lightweight, the device can protect those shielded behind the otherwise ordinary-looking umbrella from threats as diverse as a shotgun blast, a knife or acid attack, and even crossbow bolt.
While it is reported the umbrella couldn’t stop a flying bullet from a handgun or long arm, it is claimed the three layers of Kevlar would significantly slow a round passing through it, reducing its lethality on the other side. In addition to all of those qualities, the €10,000 umbrellas can also be used to protect vulnerable politicians from the rain.
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