By: Michele Dargan, Special Report for the Civic Association News -- Director of Public Safety Kirk Blouin spoke to directors of the Palm Beach Civic Association about the role of the Palm Beach Police Department in protecting President-elect Donald Trump and his family when they are at Mar-A-Lago.
The president-elect already has arrived to spend Christmas in Palm Beach.
Palm Beach Police will take a “zero tolerance approach” to anyone who tries to stop and linger around Mar-A-Lago, Mr. Blouin said.
“We’ve planned a strategy on how to minimize impacts,” he said. “People will get traffic tickets for impeding traffic. We’re going to send a message clearly to the community that we’re not going to allow that.”
The board of directors’ business meeting and luncheon took place December 15 at the Sailfish Club.
Civic Association Chairman and CEO Bob Wright welcomed everyone and introduced new directors Warren Belmar, Lynn Foster, Harriet Miller and Thomas Peterffy. Mr. Wright thanked MorseLife for underwriting the luncheon.
Kirk Blouin, Director of Public Safety, Town of Palm Beach
“Their support makes events like this possible,” Mr. Wright said.
Mary Alice Pappas, senior vice president of MorseLife Foundation, spoke about the services offered by MorseLife Health System.
Civic Association director and executive committee member Wilbur Ross was slated to speak at the luncheon, but cancelled after President-elect Trump selected him to be the secretary of commerce in his cabinet.
Mr. Blouin said he couldn’t give specifics on what goes into protecting a president, but said the inner workings are impressive.
“In the town of Palm Beach we’ve had a history of protecting presidents and world leaders,” he said. “That’s not uncommon for us. What is unique now is that we have a resident that is soon to be president of the United States. So far, it hasn’t been too bad, but we’re monitoring it and developing plans.”
He also spoke about how the police will handle any protesters. There already was one group who marched near Mar-A-Lago after it was announced that Mr. Trump won the presidency. That group marched a few days before the Trump family flew in to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-A-Lago. He described the protest as “a success with very little if any” impacts to the community.
Mr. Blouin said he hopes that another protest, scheduled for January, will be the same.
Mary Alice Pappas, Senior VP of MorseLife Foundation & Bob Wright, Chairman and CEO Civic Association
“It is staff intensive,” he said. “We have to develop intelligence on these groups and what they’re capable of. Generally, we have ways to find out what they’re talking about and what they’re planning in the Town of Palm Beach. We have to allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights. We meet with attorneys to find out how we handle each scenario. We just don’t know how often and how many types of groups will come here to demonstrate and we will continue to develop intelligence and continue to develop plans around that.”
The Secret Service and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office take the lead role in protecting the president when he is in Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Police Department plays a minor role, providing extra manpower if something happens and the other agencies need assistance, Mr. Blouin said. The Secret Service has a small office in West Palm Beach, so the majority of agents come up from the Miami office to protect the president, he said.
“We’re playing a role in the planning part,” Mr. Blouin said. “My major role is to minimize impacts to the residents. Even some of the biggest Trump supporters have called and expressed concerns. They’re happy he got elected as long as it doesn’t impact their lives.”
When the president-elect was in town over the Thanksgiving holiday, Mr. Blouin said he expressed concerns about the impact to residents if the Secret Service shut down South Ocean Boulevard near Mar-A-Lago as well as the Southern Boulevard Bridge and diverted all traffic to the Royal Park, the Flagler Memorial and the Lake Worth bridges.
“They did keep that in mind and kept that road open,” he said. “There was very minimal impact. Hopefully, it will be the plan going forward but at the end of the day, the Secret Service runs the show when it comes to that and they’re going to do whatever they find necessary to protect the president.”
When a president flies in to Palm Beach International Airport, gridlock ensues, Mr. Blouin said. In general, intersections in and around the airport are supposed to be shut down five minutes before the president departs by motorcade.
However, the time frame can expand to 20 minutes or more depending on the circumstances, Mr. Blouin said. Departing by helicopter, would avoid that.
“It’s no secret Mr. Trump wanted a helipad before becoming president,” Mr. Blouin said. “It was denied. He may just get one this time. For obvious reasons, it’s probably safer. But most importantly to people in this room, there’s less of a negative impact in and around the community if he chooses to move that way.”
There has been a great deal of speculation as to how often Mr. Trump will come to Palm Beach as president, Mr. Blouin said. At this point, no one knows for sure, he said.
Kirk Blouin, George Cohon & Michele Kessler
“I feel very uncomfortable acknowledging when he is coming, but it appears it’s the worst kept secret in town,” Mr. Blouin said. “Everybody knows it. I don’t think he’s going to be in town as much as he did in the past.”
Civic Association Director Mary Ourisman told Mr. Blouin that her home is one of the closest to Mar-A-Lago. When Mr. Trump was in town for Thanksgiving, Ms. Ourisman said her family tried to take their boat out and they were escorted back to the dock by the U.S. Coast Guard with a machine gun on the boat. There needs to be a notification to those who have docks around Mar-A-Lago when and how they are allowed to use their boats, she said.
Mr. Blouin said she wasn’t the only resident who had that experience, but he didn’t receive information about it until after the fact.
“Some were told, ‘you can leave your dock, but you can’t come back to this area,’” Mr. Blouin said. “We can’t provide notifications of when he’s coming for obvious reasons.”
Mr. Blouin urged anyone with a boat dock near Mar-A-Lago to call him and he will provide their information to the Secret Service and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in order to prevent that from happening.
“The issue has already been addressed,” he said. “They’re willing to accommodate if the person is a known person in the community.”
Another attendee asked Mr. Blouin how law enforcement agencies separate real threats from false threats.
The advances in technology makes it easy for people to make anonymous threats, Mr. Blouin said. That’s why the amount of threats has increased, he said.
“We try and trace back to where the call came from to determine if it’s a credible threat,” he said.
The Secret Service has advised the town to expect continuous hacks from the Chinese government on the town’s computer system, he said. The town must stay vigilant in keeping the malware and computer anti-virus software up-to-date to prevent that from happening.
“Now that Mr. Trump will be president and in town, there will be an increase in that type of activity,” Mr. Blouin said.
Images provided by Capehart Photography