Close Protection Explained
Close Protection Explained
Will Geddes (Close Protection Officer) gives expert video advice on: What's the difference between a close protection officer and a bodyguard?; Do I have the right to kill someone?; Am I bound by criminal law if I hurt someone? and more...
What is 'Close Protection'?
Close Protection is the term that's used within the security industry to describe the physical protection of an individual who's at risk.
How much does it cost?
Cost protection can vary in cost, really depending on where you are in the world and the sort of risks you are possibly facing. So, it can cost anything from 3 pounds per day per officer to 1 pound per day per officer. Again, whether it be working in London or working in Columbia, Mexico, New York, it really does depend on the threat that they're facing as to how much it costs.
What will it protect me against?
Close protection should work on two levels: a preventative level and a reactive level. It should look at obviously ensuring there is planning set around your social and working environment to protect you against a human risk ambushing you, jumping out at you from a car, or presenting itself in places where you least expect it. Close protection is a protective membrane, or a fabric, around you to ensure that you can go about your normal day as easily as you can with the minimum of disruption but the highest degree of safety.
Can't the police provide this?
A common misconception is that the police can provide you with close protection. Unfortunately, they don't have the resources or the finances to provide close protection to the number of people that quite often do require it every year - and that's just in this country. The police can provide evidential gathering. They can operate under the various criminal acts to ensure that an individual who is threatening you can be prosecuted, or certainly their case presented forward to the Crown Prosecution Service. However, it is only in very specialist events or situations (and if you are a very high profile individual) that you would be afforded close protection by the police. Unfortunately, other than that, you would need to come to a company that specializes in this area.
What's the difference between a close protection officer and a bodyguard?
The common difference, as it's interpreted, and again it is down to individual interpretation between a bodyguard and a close protection officer (because the two are somewhat the same), is a bodyguard will be more often aligned to the individual you'll see very visibly next to Britney Spears, Tom Cruise, or some high-known celebrity that's attending a red carpet event. Close protection officer, you may be less likely able to identify. They'll be more clandestine; they'll be low-profile, but they'll be still maintaining that security provision: watching out for the threat and ensuring that there is protection around that principal at all times.
How will my close protection officer be trained?
In this country, you need to be licensed. This was recent legislation that requires every individual who is offering close protection, or offering the specialization, to be duly vetted. It's ensured that they don't have a criminal record, and have undertaken basic, fundamental training. That fundamental training, if you don't come from a previous protective background, such as in the police or in the military, would require a minimum of at least 5 to 6 weeks of basic training. But over and beyond that is the experience that you get when you're actually on the job that will make the difference as to whether you qualify or not to undertake more extensive protective tasks.
Will they take a bullet for me?
Close protection officers or body guards are occasionally referred to as "bullet catchers". So yes, in theory, your body guard, your close protection officer should take a bullet for you. But if you're hiring the right people, they should have done sufficient planning; they should have the sufficient expertise and skills to try and evade the chances where a bullet could even be fired towards you.
Do I have to have been in the SAS?
You don't have to have been in the SAS. To be honest, the SAS have only their one particular section that is involved in close protection, and that is the Protective Wing. Over and beyond that, in fact, there are more individuals that will come from former Royal Marines in the Parachute Regiment, and traditional groups such as the Royal Military Police, who are involved in these types of tasks and duties in their own military roles. Therefore, you don't have to come from a Special Forces background such as the SAS.
Do I need to be trained?
You do need to be trained. You also need to be licensed to provide close protection in this country. You would need to be licensed by the regulatory authority, which is the Security Industry and Authority. But you also need to have attended and passed training that has a formal examination at the end through an accredited training group. This can take in excess of four to five weeks, and that is only foundation level.
What makes a good close protection officer?
I'm often asked, "What makes a good close protection officer?". My simple answer to that is that there are two basic ingredients to a good close protection officer: the hard skills, and the soft skills. The hard skills you can get virtually anywhere, but it's the soft skills that make all the difference. And the soft skills involve not only protocol and deployment, but how an individual can convey themselves; whether they're communicating with household staff - the principal's driver - or talking to the board of directors for a major corporation. A good close protection officer is someone who can blend in; who can look like a corporate executive, but at the same time, shed that shell if they need to; if they're faced by aggression.
How much money will I earn?
As a female within the close protection industry, you can stand to make in excess of £100,000 a year. As a man within the industry, you can make in excess of at least £60,000 a year. There is some very good money to be made, but you live a very transit existence. When you join the security industry and you dedicate yourself to being a close protection officer, you almost take an oath, because you could be transported virtually anywhere around the world; but equally, you're not always going to go to the most glamorous locations.
Am I likely to get shot?
The likelihood of getting physically harmed or even getting shot in this industry really does depend on where you are operating. The function and the principal reason of what you are undertaking as a close protection officer means that you are the fabric of security between an individual and a threat that they're facing. So, as a direct result, there is a potential that, yes, you could be injured. However, that risk is naturally only increased depending on the environment. So, if you're operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Colombia; somewhere where guns and knives are greatly more prevalent, yes, the risk is obviously that much higher. However, with a good team, good skills, good procedures, and good planning, that threat is certainly going to be minimised.
Do I have the right to kill someone?
Nobody has the right to kill someone, unless they are defending their own life or the life of someone under their charge. And again, there have to be very good mitigating circumstances that are clearly evidential and within the confines of the legal jurisdiction of the environment within which you are operating. The simple answer is that you cannot willingly kill someone unless there is a very good chance that your life is at risk or at threat, and it is a situation of either life or death that forces you to undertake that kind of action.
Am I bound by criminal law if I hurt someone?
You are bound by criminal law in whichever country you're operating and that will differ from country to country, and therefore it is the responsibility of the class protection officer to understand what jurisdiction restrictions one is operating within when one is protecting a VIP. As such, you are as likely to be prosecuted as any normal person if you break the law and therefore, it is even more critical that as a class protection officer and a protection professional, that you understand the parameters..
Will I live a life of luxury?
Some people ask if they will live a life of luxury as a close protection officer, looking after various VIPs. And, yes, you will be travelling with them and staying with them at some of the best resorts in the world, some of the best hotels, restaurants, or travelling by private jet. However, the moment you lose focus on what you're there to do and start absorbing the environment over and beyond assessing it for the risks that potentially present themselves, then that's the time that you should give up the job of close protection officer.
What is surveillance?
Surveillance is the term that is used within the security industry to regard obviously, the observation of an individual without that individual being aware. That is surveillance.
Can I have someone followed?
By law, you can have someone followed. But, again, it depends on where they're being followed. If it's within publicly accessible domain, like on the street, then yes, that is possible. However, there could be occasions where, if the individual discovers that they're under surveillance, you may be asked questions by the police to explain and justify your actions. Therefore, you have to have good reasoning. Otherwise, it's commonly termed as "stalking."
How would a surveillance team follow someone?
Surveillance is commonly undertaken utilizing a variety of different means. That will be foxtrot, on foot, in a vehicle, which can be a car or a motorbike. On average, a good professional surveillance team should compromise of no less than six people.
How much does surveillance cost?
Surveillance can cost a variety of things, again depending on the individuals that you are utilizing. If you're using a couple of gum-shoe detectives, it may only cost you a few hundred pounds a day. If it's something such as an insurance fraud, often it probably won't cost more than 300 pounds a day for two operators. However, if this is a very important case that requires some extra special skills (and certainly where the threat of discovery is far greater because the target is security-aware), then you could be looking anywhere up to about seven or eight thousand pounds a day.
How can I protect against being followed?
One of the first bits of advice I would always suggest to people if they feel that they could be under surveillance, and I'm not just talking cheating wives and husbands, but individuals that could be at greater risk from a potential ambush or a possible attack will be to randomize their actions and movements. By human nature, we will be terribly predictible. We will fall into routines and patterns of behavior. In the same way as when we leave the house during the working week, on average five to ten minutes at the same time every morning, we'll follow the same path to the tube station, or the bus stop, and then when we get to the tube station we'll stand at the same spot on the platform every single morning. We can fall into these routines, which an individual may pick up on, whether it be a mugger, a stalker, a rapist, or something even more serious. And therefore, we need to randomize that: not drink in the same pub that we always do, not eat in the same restaurant that we always eat in, and make sure that we are far, and less easy to determine.
Can I have someone bugged?
A lot of people ask me the question, “Can I bug someone?” And the simple rule of thumb is, “No, you can't have someone bugged.” Again, there's a question of invasion of privacy. There's a question of intrusion. Whereas it may be checking on a cheating husband or a cheating wife if you are trying to tape their conversations within obviously your own home. If you start interfering with telephone systems or cell phones, or even start to put devices into locations where you are not permitted to access you're getting into very fraught areas of legal complications and interceptions of telecommunications acts. So as a general rule, I would always say, ideally try not to have someone bugged, but if you do, you need to take a specialist's advice both legally and security-wise before you have that person bugged.
How did you become a bodyguard?
I came into the industry through a very unorthodox approach to be honest. Most individuals within this business either come from former military or a former police background. I came from a martial arts background. I was an instructor for many years and provided instruction to British army, and also to police personnel and various other government agencies. From there, I was a close protection office for private individuals primarily out in the Far East. From there, I then expanded my team through people I met and both instructed and also worked along side into then creating the business there is today.
What do you do now?
These days I'm a little less active than I used to be however that doesn't mean that I don't roll up my sleeves from time to time. More often than not, I'm running the company, obviously providing strategic advice and direct provisions for various clients of ours from around the world, which includes some of the most major international corporations and some of the richest people in the world.
Who have you guarded?
The question that we're often asked is who do we protect, and who do we advise, and that is one of the hardest questions to answer. The close protection business's foundation is on confidentiality, and there are very few clients who would ever wish for us to disclose that they either require or have required our services. Therefore, it makes it incredibly difficult to be able to tell you all the amazing companies, and all the high-level individuals that we've protected or advised. However, suffice to say, there are a few familiar faces that, no doubt, you may catch on DVD at the moment, or in various concerts and stadiums around the world, as well as leading industrialists and business people that will be quite major figures within the public eye.
Have you ever feared for your life?
The simple answer when people ask me, "Have I ever feared for my life?" is yes, and often. And the simple reason is that, unless you do have some element of fear and anxiety before you go into a close protection job - whether it be operating in Iraq, Hellman Province, Colombia, Mexico, wherever - if you go in there completely blasé and not feeling just slightly in jeopardy, then you're not going to be working on all your senses. And ultimately, you're not only putting your principal at risk, but you're putting yourself at risk.
What are the highlights of your job?
The highlights of the job are in the diversity of the work that you get. No one job is ever the same. No one body-guarding assignment or close protection assignment is ever the same. No one surveillance is ever the same, and in twenty years of working as a close protection officer, I have to say every single job has always differed in one respect or another. You meet all sorts of different people across the world, and when they're celebrities or high profile individuals quite often they're very different to the public persona they give off, and that can be good or it can be, sometimes, very bad.
What is the worst part of your job?
The one thing about this job is that people have this romantic notion of Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, or Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. People have this impression that they are given from TV and from movies. Unfortunately, and the dark reality and the boring reality is that it is 90% boredom and 10% excitement. And the vast majority of your time is set about in planning, in preparation, in training and ensuring that you're not putting your principal at risk or putting him in to a situation which is going to further endanger him.So, it's all down to very careful thinking and planning to ensure that those problems don't materialize. But when they do, they're usually fast and furious. You have to be quick to react to them.
Have you ever had an affair with someone you are guarding?
Any person who has an affair with a person that they're guarding or protecting really has lost the grasp of what they're supposed to be doing. Our role is to protect people when they're at their most vulnerable. I have CEOs from major companies in floods of tears in front of me, looking at me, wondering what the hell to do. I've had very senior female executives who have normally got control of every domain of their life, but this one element has now unbalanced them and put them at a great level of vulnerability. For a close protection officer to exploit that vulnerability, in whatever capacity it might take, is not only unethical but of the most highly unprofessional attitude, and shouldn't be in this industry.