Ensuring the safety of high profile individuals
The main duty of a Close Protection Officer (CPO) centres on providing the highest level of protection for their client and in some cases that individual’s family and assets. They have a duty to keep that person comfortable and safe in carrying out their role and responsibilities and ensure that the needs of their client are met. This can sometimes go beyond the normal responsibilities of physical protection to the protection of the client’s reputation. Depending on their relationship with the client a CPO should have the experience and integrity to advise on situations that may be detrimental to the client.
For high profile figures such as those high up in government and industry, security is of particular importance. Being in the public eye and sometimes at the centre of conflicting decisions can mean that attention is drawn to them, which may sometimes put them at risk. Companies operating the BSI 8507 standard for close protection can provide trained and licensed security professionals to ensure that the safety of such high profile individuals is maintained. With the specialist skills that are required of CPOs, clients can be assured that their safety is priority and will be maintained, leaving them to concentrate on their own roles in running government departments or businesses.
CPOs must be able to react quickly on their feet and cope under pressure in a manner that does not bring themselves or their client into disrepute or harm. They should be competent in first aid and life support systems, proficient in conflict management and unarmed combat and should have the basics in anti-and counter-surveillance techniques. They might be able to drive to an advanced level, and if working in high-risk zones, should have undergone firearms training. Even if the CPO is not able to carry weapons due to the local laws, having the ability to establish whether the local protection team can protect them and their client in a time of need is paramount. Language skills are a desirable quality of any CPO that is working overseas as having a basic understanding of the local dialect can sometimes make the difference between defusing a situation and it escalating out of control.
Planning & research
In order to successfully provide protection, comprehensive planning is needed and a CPO will undertake meticulous research in order to understand the threats and risks that face their client. Wherever possible a CPO will prepare an itinerary and will ensure that the routes, venues and hotels that their client may be visiting, are thoroughly checked to safeguard them against compromise. This also enables the CPO to liaise with the venue management, identify alternative entrances and exits and fully understand the environment.
One BSIA member had a client who needed to hold a series of very confidential meetings over three days in a time of intense pressure during a hostile takeover bid. The BSIA member worked with the client’s team in selecting the venue, hotel and travel arrangements and prior to the arrival of the client, all meeting and hotel rooms were swept for bugs and secured. The participants were picked up and brought in along routes that allowed anti-surveillance teams to ensure they were not followed, all access to meeting rooms were controlled on a 24-hour basis, and the hotel and grounds were monitored.
In a separate case, a UK based businessman had to attend court in Lagos, Nigeria, to give evidence in a contentious court case. A BSIA member was selected to provide a close protection service. The BSIA member provided a close protection operator to escort the businessman on his flight from London and then in Lagos they met up with the small team who had explored and examined the hotel, the courthouse and alternative routes to ensure the businessman’s safety. There were a couple of potential incidents inside the courthouse, but early intervention by members of the team and the use of an alternative exit, ensured that the witness was safe.
Another example include a BSIA member’s client that was closing a production plant in a European country and wanted to ensure that the CEO was safe while he was there to address the workforce. The BSIA member successfully provided a low profile personal protection officer and a covert team mingling with the workforce to identify any hostile elements and respond if required.
A well-known celebrity was due to attend a South American country to film a programme about extreme poverty for a charity. A BSIA member was picked to ensure that the celebrity was safe while on this trip. The BSIA member had to conduct the threat assessment and devise a security plan, which enabled to programme to be filmed while ensuring the safety of the celebrity. This was achieved with the use of two British advisers and a local security team. The BSIA member’s team was able to advise the camera crew to help them maintain a low profile and avoid attracting undue attention.
When sourcing close protection services, ensuring that the CPO is licensed and working to appropriate standards is paramount. All CPOs must be licensed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) for which they must prove their identity and right to work, demonstrate that they have successfully completed an approved qualification, be qualified in first aid and pass a criminal record check. In addition, every close protection company should be compliant with the British Standard 8507, which ensures that the credentials of a CPO are closely examined and that they have the skills and training to carry out their role at the required level. With their high profiles, government and industrial figures need to know they are in safe hands and these checks help to ensure that.
Thanks to the strict licensing procedures and regulation of the industry, close protection services have grown in use as well as reputation. The UK’s close protection sector has an excellent reputation around the world and has been established as the place where the protection of high profile individuals can be confidently assured. It is therefore no surprise that CPOs are increasingly becoming the choice of more and more high profile figures in government and industry to safeguard them in their line of work.
The BSIA Close Protection Section is becoming increasingly important and contributes to the UK economy in two ways. Firstly through the increasing demand for highly trained personnel to protect people and valuable assets and secondly it exerts a valuable indirect influence by establishing the UK as a place where the protection of high profile individuals can be confidently assured.
All BSIA Close Protection Section members are required to meet the ISO9001:2008 standard. The Security Industry Authority (SIA) also introduced licensing for close protection, which provides a basic level of training and requires a Criminal Records Bureau check. As well as the identity and criminality checks, officers must undertake 150 hours of knowledge and practical skills training, leading to a Level 3 qualification in close protection and a recognised first aid certificate.
For more information
The BSIA is the professional trade association of the UK security industry. Its members produce over 70 per cent of the country’s security products and services to strict quality standards. For further information, visit www.bsia.co.uk. The BSIA operates a local rate helpline on 0845 389 3889.