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The Protection Equation - Intersec Articles

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The Protection Equation - Intersec Articles

Post by Ted-Pencry on 17/10/2012, 19:41

The protection equation

As the demand for close protection services continue to grow so too has the need to effectively regulate the industry. But Richard Aitch argues the UK’s approach has been heavy handed, and warns it risks lowering standards instead of raising them

Both government and commercial close protection (CP) operations throughout the world suggest close protection remains a combination of threat awareness, deterrence and prevention and “minor” CP tactics to combat an attack. Although these points are in effect true, the operation will be left predominantly as a reactive one. As such, it very much remains that this reaction and its effectiveness, (and any subsequent success), are reliant on the earliest possible identification of any hostile action. It stands to reason, therefore, that the preparedness for any such action will be hugely benefited by the immediate identification of this hostile action. This applies to bombings, standoff attacks, close quarter attacks and hostage taking. The concept of “typical” CP operations therefore needs to change, and there is a requirement for greater flexibility in planning, training and operational capabilities.

The responsibility for another person’s life is one that should supersede all others. Generally speaking, however, I find there is an inherently blasé attitude among those commercially employed in “low-to-medium risk” and, on occasion, “high-risk” environments around the world, whether it is the bodyguard (BG) on the ground or the contracted security company itself. This is due in part to a combination of factors that influence the very framework that this employment entails. These factors include inexperienced BGs being employed in unsuitable positions, poor quality or insufficient training and a “bums on seats” work ethics adopted by some security providers while securing the contract. The fact that there are BGs “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 argument.

Due to the marked increase of violent crime and terrorism, one of the growing industries today is protective security. Terrorism and crime at home and abroad have created such a demand for professionals that there is a real shortage of quality trained men and women to meet the needs of private industry and prominent people in the entertainment field. As I result, although the majority of personnel are former members of elite units as the RMP, the SAS and police, and thus had the appropriate experience, the industry has been tarnished by unscrupulous, untrained and inexperienced individuals providing a service that is poor, unregulated and with no benchmark to attain or aspire. The standards of performance displayed by some CP personnel in the employ of clients, including those of the companies contracted, left much to be desired.

Close protection is an elitist employment. It is not a definitive science nor is it governed by strict rules or methodology. It is an art. It is fluid and flexible. It is as fluid as the nature of the protection operation allows, and as flexible as the principal’s programme dictates. It requires ever-changing procedures for an ever-changing situation that must remain effective, efficient and professional to the core. Any body seeking to licence this sector – and enacting that licence – must therefore reflect this in the standards it implements through training and practice. It must also demonstrate a deep understanding of the CP role through these standards and the manner in which they are presented.

In March 2003 the British Government’s Home Office established the Security Industry Authority (SIA) under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. Its aim is to: “regulate the UK private security industry effectively; to reduce criminality, raise standards and recognise quality service.” It effectively covers the whole industry, from cash and valuables in transit, door supervision and public space CCTV to security guarding, key-holding, vehicle immobilisation (wheel clamping) and close protection. Yet the standards they specifically implemented for close protection fell drastically short of the operational benchmark that should have been met and attained. This was, in part, due to the SIA and the sector skills body they had tasked – the Security Industry Training Organisation (SITO) consulting with certain individuals employed in the private security industry. Most of these were CP company directors (contract and training provider) who had no prior government (military or police) close protection training or experience themselves. This was combined with the SIA’s specific agenda of influencing the National Occupational Standards to suit their purposes, as opposed to implementing best practice to raise professionalism within the industry. Consequently the whole licensing process – reasoning and end-result – was widely regarded as being both a debacle and embarrassment by those who have served in specialist units; it is a mistake I have researched in depth, reported on and objected about to the Home Office, the Cabinet Office’s Better Regulation Executive, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary and of course, the SIA and Skills For Security themselves.

In September 2010, as a result of the coalition government streamlining the public sector to reduce costs and save £500 million, it announced a cull of the quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations (quangos). It was estimated at the time that there were more than 1,100 quangos that cost taxpayers around £64 billion a year to maintain. The SIA was one of those chosen to be canned. After much internal lobbying by the SIA to government, however, it was agreed that the industry regulator would remain, albeit in a different form. The House of Lords then passed an amendment to the Public Bodies Bill that removed the Security Industry Authority from the schedule of quangos set to be abolished. It was known that abolishing the SIA would not save taxpayers money, as it was largely self-financing, but a Home Office document suggested the move would save security firms money and that it contributes greatly to “reducing the burdensome regulation.” Baroness Neville-Jones, the then-Minister of State, Home Office, told the Lords that it remained the Government’s clear intention to abolish the SIA in its present form and transfer the powers to a new regulatory regime by the end of 2013. This “reform”, or new regime is intended to be more “industry led” insofar as implementing standards is concerned.

Since 2006, the SIA and its methods of instigating close protection standards and licensing attracted controversy like a burning candle attracts moths; both creatures flap their wings furiously before combusting. Although the SIA has not fully “combusted”, I was delighted with this news nonetheless. The organisation that was solely to be blamed for creating a benchmark debacle in their salami slicing of standards for in excess of seven years was to be abolished. In true Henry Ford style they had formed a production line, but instead of quality they churned out plastic clones of empty suits that were simply unfit for purpose.

The future of commercial close protection, its standards and the licensing of those individuals employed remains of grave importance. It is essential the new regime replacing the SIA is not merely doing so in name only, with those same individuals influencing retrogressive steps rather than progress as before, but instead the very ethos of the leadership must demonstrate a complete and genuine concern for the standards of the service ultimately being imposed.

Richard Aitch has more than 25 years’ military, government and commercial close protection, surveillance and security experience. He has served in the Parachute Regiment and Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit and has personally provided close protection to British ambassadors and UK special envoys, members of the British and Saudi royal families, members of Parliament and CEOs, among others. He is also the author of Close Protection – A Closer Observation of the Protection Equation.


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