Protecting the Principal, Part 1

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There are times when dignitaries, elected officials or other high-profile people require security above and beyond normal measures.

A special task force that does that type of work trains here in Meridian through the Department of Homeland Security.

Executive protection is the advanced course, and officers already have 56 hours of training at this point.

But as training coordinator Michael Street says, once completed, the officers will be ready to be a part of a select group, the Mississippi Force Protection Task Force:

"So when the state deems that there is a security risk and they need extra security for something, they have a pool and resources to pull from that will be able to work side by side with Secret Service, or any of them, marshals, to protect dignitaries that may be visiting Mississippi," said Street.

Something that seems as mundane as motorcade driving intensifies as the training deepens. The officers are there to ensure there is no risk, no threat to the 'principal' they are there to protect.

Their own lives may be risked, especially in the lead vehicle, or 'alpha' car. These officers are learning budget planning one day, ambush training the next:

The officers learn the 'alpha' car can be sacrificed, all in the name of protecting the principal.

"They're going to learn how to plan missions, from the nth degree of the budget all the way to the last part to protecting the principal. If they're on that principal for 30 days, such as the president or the governor, or a detail where they have 24-hour security, then these guys know how to go out and perform that type of security 24-7," Street said.

There are significant differences between these officers' regular job duties and those of their new homeland security role:

"In this type of field, we work for the dignitary," said Keith Alexander of the Winston County Sheriff's Department. "In law enforcement, we work for the public. Their safety comes first before ours."

In Part 2, Newscenter 11 gets an up close and personal look at the training and learn about the sensitive nature of homeland security.