Understanding the roles and responsibilities of a close protection operative (CPO) is the obvious starting point for any person considering training and employment within the Close Protection industry.
A CPO, more commonly known as a bodyguard, is employed to protect the life/lives of a Principal and or a Principal’s family from theft, attack, injury or harm. But that is not all a close protection operative undertakes, a CPO is also responsible for protecting the Principal’s property, business, lifestyle, image and reputation. In fulfilling these responsibilities, CPOs may take several roles.
Initial and on-going training is vital to ensure that close protection operatives have sufficient knowledge for their role and to maintain operational standards. Basic close protection training is a prerequisite to operative licensing and meeting regulatory requirements, ensuring bodyguards can do a professional and competent job. Close protection training and licensing in the UK is governed by the Security Industry Authority (SIA).
SIA Vision & Mission Statement
The term close protection operative (CPO) describes anyone involved in the protective effort regardless of the role. However, a fully complemented CP team with no budget restraints could consist of individuals specialising in specific functions.
The TL’s role is to manage the protection team and liaise with the client and or Principal (The client instructs and pays for the close protection service, the Principal is the person(s) being protected or the protectee. It is possible for the Principal to also be the client however, they would only be referred to as ‘the client’ by the hired security company and ‘Principal’ for all CP team members). The team leader should be highly experienced and knowledgeable and excel in communication to ensure that their team operates efficiently and effectively. The personal protection operative (PPO) usually undertakes the TL role. This arrangement often becomes detrimental because being so close to the Principal (VIP) does not allow the PPO to oversee the team movements or communicate sufficiently with the team.
A TL also fulfilling the PPO role can be distracted from the ultimate objective of protecting the Principal. For this reason, the TL should be operating from a distance. But usually, this is not possible. The TL should also have an ultimate say in the makeup of the team. But this not always the case either. The TL should also be sourcing all or as much detailed information regarding the Principal and their movements. The TL ensures the dissemination of this information through the team. The goal is to ensure all CP team members are where they should be when they should be.
The Second in Command (2IC) works as a deputy to the team leader and helps the team leader on larger operations or movements and steps up in their absence.
The PPO’s role it is to protect the Principal (within the inner cordon). This role can vary from Principal to Principal. The PPO needs to learn the Principal’s habits or specific requirements quickly. The PPO should also be experienced and comfortable working close to the Principal (VIP). It is no good if an operator melts in front of a Principal because they were unable to hold a conversation or answer a question directly. When the outer cordon is compromised, it will be the PPO that removes the Principal from harm’s way. If the Principal has no confidence in their PPO, they will most likely question the instructions given by the PPO, hindering the extraction away from danger.
Veteran CPOs will most likely say they would prefer to be the TL or on the Security Advance Party (SAP) team. This way, they are not permanently ‘on parade’. Younger or inexperienced CPOs will always want to be front and centre, ensuring that they are within the Principals eye line gaining as much ‘facetime’ as possible.
The team, or team members who provide a safe area/environment around the Principal (the outer cordon). This section is the outer cordon to the Principal and the PPO. The PES will be permanently scanning for threats or suspicious activity towards their Principal. Their positioning should enable them to offer the Principal 360′ degree security coverage around the Principal at all times.
A competent well-trained PES team will move seamlessly to suit the environment and ground to react to any situation, from negotiating crowded areas to wide-open spaces.
Poor operatives stand out when given the PES role. For example, lousy coverage of the Principal, poor positioning when mobile or static or just simply daydreaming and allowing an unknown person into the outer cordon.
Inadequate training and experience are even more apparent when the Principal goes static. In a restaurant or at a meeting, the poorly trained PES team end up bouncing off each other trying to find a position to blend in and not embarrass the Principal.
Of course, sticking out like a sore thumb is not always a sign of poor training and experience. Overt operations may be down to the threat and dependent on the team briefing and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). For instance, it may be desirable to overtly operate if assigned to a high-profile Government official in a hostile environment. But if it’s a low-profile assignment, then the PES quickly need to learn how to disappear and blend in.
The SAP advances one tactical leap ahead of the Principal, PPO, and PES ensuring that routes and venues are clear and secure. Communication and timing are critical to the SAP team. They may arrive in a foreign country with only hours to spare to figure out the best routes for the Principal to take and to note timings and safe havens. The SAP will also be responsible for other tasks:
Advancing and checking every venue/restaurant the Principal will or may visit, checking entrances, exits, emergency routes, checking the routes between every venue or meeting room. The SAP team will check out the local hospital. Does it have an accident & emergency department? Is it open 24hr? The SAP team will also look at local Police stations and relevant embassies. Every single move is timed, documented, and relayed to the TL. The incoming team will then arrive with all the proper knowledge required to maintain the seamless security cordon around the Principal during every single movement.
The SAP will also carry out surveillance and counter-surveillance drills, ensuring that there is no hostile surveillance being set up or taking place before the Principal’s arrival. Advancing foreign countries can be hugely challenging. Firstly the language barrier, then the availability of local assistance and timings of public holidays can affect the advance. Vehicle availability or selection may be inadequate. The local culture may hinder the SAP because culturally, they have no urgency. So in-depth research of the country to be visited is vital to try and get ahead and plan for every eventuality, and most of all, patience is required.
The RST is responsible for the day to day security of the Principal’s properties, residences, office or place of work, and or hotel.
The RST will maintain the integrity of the property security by maintaining access control of people and deliveries to the property/residence. Control of movements from the property/residence is equally important as they will contain very high-value items that may be taken. The RST will also manage tradespeople that may be required to come into the property. Management of electronic security systems such as intruder alarms, CCTV, and fire alarms is also an RST responsibility.
When the Principal stays at a hotel, the RST needs to be proactive and arrange to meet if possible, with the hotel security manager and be familiar with the building layout and emergency procedures. These meetings are essential for building good relations and obtaining as much information regarding the hotel to enable the team to secure the Principal in an unfamiliar property.
The CAT or QRF team is held in reserve to respond to any incident. The team will be mobile with a vehicle and will be shadowing the Principal’s movements. The team will consist of CPOs and possibly a medic. The vehicle will be a large enough vehicle, such as a 4×4, to ensure accessibility to the Principal’s location for extraction if the Principal’s vehicle or venue is compromised. The vehicle is also useful as cover from view or gunfire during an extraction. The team vehicle may be used as a defensive weapon against a vehicle-borne attack or punching a path through a hostile roadblock if required.
Dependant on the level of threat assigned to the Principal, the CAT vehicle could be armoured, and, outside the UK, the CAT team could be armed.
A Security Driver (SD) is responsible for vehicle checks and searching, maintenance and cleaning of vehicles. In addition to being a safe driver who can comply with road traffic legislation, the SD should be highly trained and practised in advanced driving skills such as evasive driving.
A medic can provide immediate treatment to the Principal or other team members. A competent practitioner will have detailed knowledge of the Principal’s medical history and travel with adequate equipment and supplies relevant to the location, threat and risks.
A Personal Security Detail (PSD) may specialise in hostile environments. PSD operatives have extensive weapon handling skills and training and usually come from a military background with hostile tour experience.
Last but certainly not least is the Individual Bodyguard. You find the IBG in a low threat situation where the Principal only requires one CPO. Most UK-based CPOs spend the majority of their careers in this role.
Remove the counter-attack team, the residential security team, the security advance party, the personal escort section, and the team leader, and you are left with the IBG doing everything.
For example, this lone CPO may:
Although the IBG can be responsible for all of these above roles and responsibilities and more, this may or may not be the case. It depends on the threat and risk level, and what duties your Principal expects of you, which can often include walking the dog and holding their shopping bags whilst indulging in some retail therapy, something which causes great debate amongst close protection professionals.
Individuals train in the gym all day and can hold their own in a street fight do not necessarily make the perfect close protection operatives. Similarly, just because someone is ex-military or ex-police does not mean that they are suited to a CPO role.
Gone are the days of ‘Minders’ or the stereotypical ‘big guys’ in black suits, black ties wearing sunglasses day and night with a curly-wurly earpiece. Sure there is a place for this type of bodyguard. Still, generally, they are nothing more than an accessory often seen parading with celebrities.
Big guys do have their place in the industry. Over the years many a CPO has been grateful for the assistance of a big bodyguard. This type of bodyguard excels at safely moving a Principal through crowds of screaming fans or baying press. But big bodyguards have their disadvantages too. They cannot always move quickly and often have less stamina. If they are part of a team, they take up more room inside vehicles. Big guys often make vehicle moves, embus and debus drills slow and difficult. Their size can also draw unwanted attention.
No matter what a CPOs build is, they must maintain cardiac fitness and physical strength. Fitness then sits hand in hand seamlessly with self-discipline, a high level of self-discipline is required.
It is not always easy for a CPO to meet these personal responsibilities. A CPO may be on top of their fitness and have a good regime that works well in downtime. However, once on an assignment, you can throw in a Principal that travels the globe extensively and works 12 – 16 hours a day and expects their CPO to do the same if not more. Add in lack of sleep, jet lag and additional task requirements such as route or venue reconnaissance. Then there is poor diet because you have to eat ‘on the hoof’ as the Principal has thrown in an off-schedule meeting!
The desire to go to the gym or go for a run will dwindle. Do you sacrifice sleep over going to the gym or getting something to eat? Self-discipline is needed to maintain the correct balance of fitness, diet, and stamina. A CPO will fail if they do not get the balance right. Health and concentration will be affected, and this is detrimental to the safety of your Principal and the CPO.
An unarmed combat background, such as a martial art, is essential for all CPOs. Neither personal fitness nor an unarmed combat skill are prerequisites of the SIA training and licencing. It is the personal responsibility of the individual CPO and their continual professional development (CPD).
A CPO should be confident in their ability and presence around the Principal. A Principal will not trust a CPO that is not a sure operative. Physical or verbal reactions to situations must be positive. A Principal puts their life in their CPO’s hands, so they must be 100% confident in the CPO’s commitment and abilities.
Flexibility is a must for all CPOs. How flexible depends on the level of threat associated with your Principal. However, it is not uncommon for a Principal’s plans and schedules to change frequently. The CPO must adapt and overcome. CPOs are not only there to ensure the security and safety of the Principal. The role also involves enabling the Principal to continue with their day to day life and schedule unhindered by the restraints of their status.
A successful close protection operative must have exceptional attention to detail. This overlooked attribute is vital for getting things right. Attention to detail is required to simply recognise a threat or someone that could be a threat, to remember a simple instruction, message or request from a Principal, or to search a vehicle, property or person.
We previously mentioned the need for patience. When working overseas, a CPO will be expected to wait around for hours on end. Irrespective of the Principal’s background, the CPO will be waiting around at some point not knowing when their next movement will be. Then at a seconds notice they will be required to react all while thinking clearly and calmly. An industry saying is “hurry up and wait!”. Every request made by the Principal will be expected to be completed in double-quick time but do not expect the same in return.
Attention to detail and information gathering skills are of little use if a CPO is unable to relay that information accurately and correctly to their Principal or team. Excellent communication skills are vital to maintaining security and confidentiality.
A CPO should know what type of language to use and when to be assertive. Similarly, a CPO must use the most appropriate method of communication for a message, depending on urgency, security and the recipient.
In addition to the skills already highlighted, a CPO must:
The SIA has published a document describing the Standards of Behaviour for Security Operatives.
SIA Standards of Behaviour for Security Operatives
Driving should be an essential part of achieving an SIA close protection licence. We believe that a driving license should be a prerequisite to attending a course and gaining the SIA CP license. Even this bar is too low. Every CPO should be a competent advanced driver with a minimum of a ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) or IAM (Institution of Advanced Motorists) qualification.
All too often have we come across CPOs that will not drive or cannot drive. CPOs should be confident and competent at driving large, high powered, high value, unfamiliar vehicles. Ultimately, they may be responsible for extracting a Principal away from danger and will be the one who has to drive.
The SIA expects operatives to understand the role of the driver and accepts that the CPO role may require driving. However, there is no expectation that a CPO trains to a suitable standard. All that is needed is a regular driving licence.
There is an increasing demand for security trained drivers, or security chauffeurs. These security chauffeurs act as the IBG and the driver where the threat level allows. CPOs who are not competent drivers are ruling themselves out of job opportunities, often better paying jobs. Having an SIA Close Protection license does not make an operative a Close Protection driver, security driver or chauffeur. The experienced operative and Principal can tell within 10 minutes if a driver is not what they say they are!
A successful CPO must be willing to commit to a lifetime of continuous professional development (CPD). The effective CPO has to keep up to date with changes in legislation, technology and threats. Without consistent learning and practice, skills will fade and bad habits creep in. Of course, exhibiting this professionalism enhances a CPO’s employability.
A CPO needs to understand to whom they are responsible: the client, the Principal and their employer.
The client instructs and pays for the close protection service. So, the client deals with budgets, payments, invoices and assignment requirements.
The protected person or protectee is the Principal. The Principal may be an individual, family or another group of individuals.
It is possible for the Principal also to be the client. However, only the hired security company would refer to a Principal as ‘the client’. All CP team members would use the term ‘Principal’.
‘Principal’ is not to be confused with ‘principle’. For example: A CPO should have strong moral principles. Their main objective is protecting the Principal.
Each client is as individual as each Principal. However, different types of client typically share different demands and mission roles for CPOs to complete.
Celebrity clients will need more frequent protection at public events, often at night. Corporate clients are more likely to need technical surveillance counter measure (TSCM) sweeps of offices, boardrooms, and vehicles. Dignitaries may come with different threats and risk levels. International clients may require a different standard of behaviour and adherence to their customs or religion.
CPOs must be competent in using a wide range of communication equipment, surveillance equipment, safety equipment, security equipment and PPE. Operatives must also be able to select the most appropriate tools for the job at hand.
Examples of equipment used by operatives include:
Maintaining competency is a never-ending task as the CPO has to keep up to date with new models, technology and new types of equipment.
To continually improve, a CPO must be able to tell the difference between a successful and unsuccessful close protection task in fulfilment of their roles and responsibilities.
With a successful task, the operation schedule will have gone as planned. There will have been no compromise in security or safety, and the Principal and client will be happy with the service provided.
An unsuccessful mission can be characterised by being compromised in some way. The severity of compromise can range from fatality of the Principal or a team member through injury and assault to interruption, disruption to schedule or embarrassment.
Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK, and worldwide.