A methodical and confident approach to choosing Close Protection services
An unscrupulous company can provide an unwitting client with a so-called CP professional simply on the basis that the individual has a UK SIA License (or any license applicable to the country where the company is operating). The potential for real danger in the UK on a day-to-day basis, although present, seldom arises. This gives the individual providing the service a false sense of ability and true market worth. It also provides the client with a false sense of security and a false impression that the service he/she has received has been excellent in every sense of the word including proper assessment of and preparations for risk mitigation. However, had the same client been attacked, they might have a different opinion of the service, if they were still alive to tell the tale that is. A worrying fact is that stood side by side, there is no way for a client to determine the capability and experience of their CPO if their judgement is made simply on a license anyone can get if they can afford it.
You simply need to ask more questions.
For the most part, clients, or rather, the PA’s and other assistants of the clients, do not choose their personal protection operators directly but rather through the contract service provider that they have selected. They rarely request CV’s of those that will be deployed on short term contracts on their behalf and so hence, rely entirely on the website image and blurb of the contracting company and what they have been informed by them. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, (covered in another one of our blog’s), under-hand tactics to persuade, convince, encourage and induce potential custom is rife in the industry so how does one go about in selecting Close Protection Bodyguard services and be confident that their choice is indeed fit for purpose?
Although industry security organisations of authority of various countries around the world have inflicted a certain below par standard, it becomes the duty of the industry as a whole, training and contract service provider, and individual operators alike, to not follow the minimum but to create the standard that befits the high principles, values and reputation of the highest standards but more importantly, one that this specialist role so needs.
Standards that are indeed fit for purpose and ones that not only instill pride from being the operational finest but ones that a Principal expects and deserves. It matters not what country the operator, is from. It matters not in what country they are conducting their role. It is ultimately the standards they employ on the ground that matter and if those standards are not of the finest, then any repercussions experienced as a result will occur anyway whether they are present in mind and body – or not.
It becomes a somewhat obvious stance that the effectiveness of the provision of a security service and the tactics, techniques and procedure adopted is solely reliant on the calibre of the individuals providing that service. The previous training and experience of those individuals naturally determines this ‘calibre’. Unsurprisingly then, if training standards are mediocre or even, ‘unfit for purpose’, as currently experienced, then likewise, the resultant performance of those individuals will match it hook, line and sinker. The operational environment is no place to learn the basics of providing protection but is the place to perfect the skills learnt, albeit in a team environment. If those skills are left to the decision of the training provider of whether those skills will be taught or not then they will not be – on that same basic course.
“Real’ operations are no place to learn the trade and no place for the Principal to be afforded protection by ‘trainees’.”
It has to be said that throughout the world the effect of commercialisation of business insofar as profitability, market forces and competition, remain detriment to the end result of most of those employed within ‘Protective Services’. Compounding this further, the UK industry authority, the SIA, dictates the implementation of a form of a two-tier training process. Due to UK CP licensing being solely ‘geared’ for the UK environment, there are no firearms and associated high-risk skills involvement. The knock-on effect this has had on industry is the emergence of what is irksomely termed ‘HECPO’, or ‘Hostile Environment Close Protection Officer’s course.
Combined with the provision of commercial security in environments such as Iraq & Afghanistan, it sees the need for specific hostile environment training requirements of their employees where the SIA standard does not meet. This is where commercial CP training as a whole, fails in delivering training required for any environment that the newly trained operator may find himself. Close Protection training has a duty to accurately reflect the environments in which those newly trained may find themselves.
Providing CP in the commercial world in Africa, South America and Eastern Bloc countries or anywhere the threat dictates may indeed prescribe the carriage of weapons – or the ‘availability’ of them in the dire requirement of such use. Skill sets required whereby SIA CP training on their own cannot facilitate. There is no defined line in the provision of Close Protection. There should be no defined line in the provision of Close Protection training.
I have travelled to many different countries and have witnessed many different ways in which those countries afforded their own style of protection to their Principal’s. For the most part, that protection was overt. It was ‘Hollywood’, it was textbook and it was predictable. Choreographed movements and positions disregarding any immediate presence of any threats, or not, becomes a state of disproportional reality. Unfortunately, it is this ‘disproportional reality’ that is so often witnessed within the commercial CP environment. ‘Bodyguards’ that are merely going through the motions without thinking. At present, this perhaps, may very well illustrate a difference between those that are government trained and those that are not. It can remain a difficult task to change the mind-set of those delivering protection training and those providing it. The common theme throughout the world of the same textbook drills and of the same textbook positioning is, for the most part, neither effective nor appropriate. The threats experienced by most operations are initially covert. They are unseen, they are hidden and they are clandestine. If protection does not involve detecting those threats that are unseen, hidden and clandestine then any CP operator remains merely as a reactionary one. When those covert threats become overt attacks then any reaction is on the wrong-foot. Poorly positioned, unaware and taken completely by surprise. If protection operations do not consider and adopt covert methods of deployment in detecting those threats then the operation will be watched, weaknesses exposed and attack options determined – with much ease.
Close Protection is a discipline of gargantuan proportions. It is an employment field experienced like no other and its services are progressively requested in a world increasingly insecure. The responsibility for another one’s life then is one that (should) supersedes all others. However, generally speaking, I find that there is an inherent blasé attitude amongst those commercially employed in ‘low to medium risk’ and on occasion ‘high risk’ environments around the world, whether it is the Close Protection operator on the ground or the contracted security company itself. This is due in part to the result of a combination of factors that influence the very framework that this employment entails. Factors ranging from the inexperienced ‘CPO’ being employed in positions they should not be, to the training they have received (or lack of it) to the ‘bums on seats’ work ethics of many security providers in securing the contract. Security operatives ‘going through the motions’ of ‘Bodyguarding’ without using any intellect or attempting to get their face on TV or picture in ‘Hello’ or ‘OK’ style magazines when looking after celebrities underlines this very argument.
“The commercial Close Protection service provision is in need of much wanting. A gap exists. It needs a firm shake, a wake-up call and a reassessment of its doctrine. The bar needs to be raised – severely.”
Choosing With Confidence
‘The Last Knight Standing’
The following headings are designed to help you choose your Close Protection services provider with a methodical confidence.
Ensure that the company you have chosen:
- Leads, manages and conducts Close Protection operations by subject matter experts
It naturally benefits any requirement you may have to discuss the matter with SME’s who have an in-depth shop floor background and experience in that very requirement. If those you speak to have both government and commercial Close Protection experience at the pinnacle of operations throughout the world then the advice and guidance you receive will be synonymous with that level.
- Has passion for the security industry and demand for delivery of highest standards
The company you choose must be founded on distinctive capabilities, proven expertise and strong relationships. They must pride themselves on their people and their dependability to work to a benchmark of the highest possible professional and ethical standards.
- Has management that have actually conducted the role
Many CP service providers provide their ‘service’ through sourcing manpower via social media the moment they receive a call. They perform their function merely as a ‘broker’ with little oversight or concern. The experience of the management of the contracting company is tantamount to the level of service provided. If the management have military, government and private close protection, surveillance and security operations experience, have held high-risk appointments worldwide, planning and leading numerous operations in most countries in most continents throughout the world and have provided advice and guidance in Close Protection in reviewing CP training requirements on the National Security Skills Advisory Panel for CP training – then their knowledge in your requirement will be unsurpassed.
- Has operational considerations catered
At the very minimum, the company must ensure that all of the following are in place:
- Confidentiality / Non-Disclosure Agreements
- Service Agreements
- Public Liability & Indemnity Insurances
- Provision of operator CV’s
- Types of Protective Security; High profile, overt, Low Profile/ covert, Protective Surveillance
- Threat, Risk & Vulnerability Assessments
- Provision of services in country(s) outside of the country the contracted company is registered ensuring far more than just local language but in-depth local knowledge and Police liaison if required.