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What is the Presidential Protective Division?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Presidential Protective Division is charged with guarding the United States President and his immediate family. Since 1901, the Presidential Protection Division has been operated by the United States Secret Service, despite their unrelated purpose as a safeguard against counterfeit currency. Members of the President’s security detail are often recognizable by their uniforms and communications earpieces.

In 1865, the United States Department of the Treasury created the Secret Service in order to combat operations that were flooding the economy with counterfeit currency. They quickly became an all-purpose federal law enforcement group, investigating areas where the United States Marshalls had no jurisdiction or resources. When President William McKinley was shot and killed in 1901, Congress requested that the Secret Service take over the duties of guarding the President. Since that time, they have formed the core of Presidential security detail, and are given extensive training in protective practices.

The Presidential Protective Division is essential in ensuring the security of the President and his family at all times. This includes planning routes for motorcade trips, arranging security details for visiting dignitaries or for the President’s journeys around the globe, as well as the day-to-day guarding of their charge. They are meant to protect the President at any cost, including their own lives.

Special agents, as members of the Presidential Protective Division are known, receive advanced training in weapons and defensive strategy. In addition to their preparatory work ensuring a location’s safety, they must watch for any potential attacks in any situation. If an attack is enacted, the goals of the special agents are quite simple: they must get the President to safety by shielding them from the attack and evacuating them to a safe location.

As might be assumed, working in the Presidential Protective Division is a dangerous line of work, although only one agent has ever been killed as a result of an attack on the President. In 1950, Private Leslie Coffelt was fatally shot during an assassination attempt on President Truman. During the 1980 assassination attempt on President Ronald Regan, Special Agent Timothy McCarthy was shot in the abdomen when he jumped in front of the President to protect him from incoming fire. He recovered and was awarded the National Collegiate Athletic Association Medal of Valor for his courage.

Members of the Presidential Protective Division are easily recognizable any time the President is in public. They are typically dressed in formal suits with ties, although they will change their apparel depending on the etiquette of the situation. Often, they use neutral colored communications device as an earpiece, or may carry military issue walkie-talkies. You may also see them running alongside the President’s motorcade as an additional protection measure.

While only one Secret Service agent has been killed while protecting the President from assassination, the work carries a daily risk of danger. Their willingness to take a bullet in their own bodies to protect the President is an act of extraordinary courage and valor. While they may not be noticed next to the fame and importance of their charge, the members of the Presidential Protective Division are recognized for their bravery and essential services to their President and their country.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for America Explained. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
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Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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