The recent London Olympic and Para Olympic games in 2012 generated the highest level of demand for close protection operators in the UK since licensing began in 2006 which led to a large influx of people training and obtaining licenses. The Security Industry Authority (SIA) mission is 'to regulate the private security industry effectively, reduce criminality, to raise standards, recognise quality service and ensure that private security operatives are ‘fit and proper’ persons who are properly trained and qualified to do their job' (SIA, 2009). In a survey of 231 security operatives conducted for this paper, 76% said they thought the SIA's stipulated 138 hours training time to become a close protection operator wasn't sufficient to train someone to a competent level to work in the UK. As a former operator with the Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit (RMP CPU), trained to a world renown high standard through the British Army, and now manager of close protection operations in the UK using SIA trained operatives, it offers an opportunity to critique the suitability of the SIA curriculum from working with operators trained at both ends of the training spectrum. 'The commercial Close Protection world 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.' (Aitch: 2012: 39)
This paper will examine whether 138 hours training time is sufficient to train someone for close protection work in the UK, with no pre-course requisites for attendance other than basic first aid certification to potentially be responsible for the principal's life, their own and their team. The paper will look at the 138 hours training time being conducted within twelve to fourteen days by training providers who keep to the SIA's stipulated training time only and evaluate whether it is possible to retain and effectively use information being taught under such intense instruction. The paper will identify the threats a close protection operator in the UK may face. Then establish where the GAPS are in the SIA's training curriculum in order to train operatives to mitigate these threats effectively. The GAPS focussed on a lack of close quarter combat training, no advanced driving requirement and only a basic surveillance awareness module being taught. The paper will conclude by making commercially viable recommendations in order to improve the competency of operators for UK work.
In order to establish whether the SIA's current curriculum for close protection training is sufficient to train operators for UK work, a survey was conducted to obtain quantitative data to give a broad overview of opinion from those working within the security industry. Detailed interviews were conducted to obtain qualitative data with five established professionals to gain expert opinion from within the security industry. The first, Interviewee A, a former board member of the Expert Consultation Group for reviewing the National Occupational Standards (NOS) in close protection, and now fierce critic of the SIA, has recently written the industry's leading publication on close protection, deemed as the gold standard of close protection training. The second, Interviewee B, Marketing Director for The Security Advisor website gave an overview of training companies and current training standards in the UK. The third, Interviewee C, has a Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit instructor background and is now the senior instructor with a commercial UK training company licensing SIA operatives, so was able to give authoritative opinion on training standards from both a government and commercial perspective. The forth, Interviewee D, Managing Director of the only company in the world to provide a level three qualification in security chauffeuring, and fifth, Interviewee E, Krav Maga expert and unarmed combat instructor for security professionals offered guidance on where the SIA's current curriculum has GAPS in order to train operators to mitigate threats associated with UK work. In addition a sixth interview, Interviewee F, was conducted with a close protection operator who had recently passed his course in 2014 who gave opinion on the intensity of the curriculum being taught and ability to retain information.
The security industry relies more upon technical knowledge to conduct the role over higher education so authoritative literature on close protection is minimal. Therefore there were five primary sources that were used to highlighted opinion on not just SIA regulation in close protection but also views on skills and minimum standards necessary to conduct the role. The literature review will focus on establishing the need for pre course requisites for attendance to establish suitability for the role, authors opinion on whether the current SIA curriculum is sufficient to train close protection operators for UK tasks and identifying GAPS in the curriculum.
Aitch (2012) is a fierce critic of the SIA and has produced arguably the most comprehensive and exemplary authoritative guide on the training requirements for a close protection operator ever published, however there is much debate as to whether it is commercially viable in its entirety. Therefore there are still GAPS in research to produce literature which details a curriculum to train operators competently for the UK close protection role but in a commercial training market.
Consterdine (2006), Horak (2012) and Brown (2011) write comprehensively about the standard of person and personal attributes essential for close protection operators, although these aren't prerequisites of course attendance. However focus on topics such as personal hygiene, personality and tidiness which seem common sense as Horak (2012) describes them. Whereas Aitch (2012) stresses the importance of a minimum age to have gained life experiences, fitness to enable conducting the role and mental capacity as these 'ultimately underpin the core factor concerning the standard of close protection operator' showing Aitch's (2012) commitment to raising standards over accepting the SIA's current regulation.
Aitch (2012) would argue in agreement with this paper that that the SIA's current 138 hours training time is not sufficient to train personnel in close protection due to the course length and competencies omitted from the curriculum. However, Brown (2011) and Consterdine (2006) agree that the course is comprehensive in content and realistic for commercial training, theories opposed to those highlighted in this paper.
Aitch (2012) highlights GAPS in the SIA curriculum, which were also identified in this paper, and agreed to be important by Horak (2012), referred to as harder skills such as close quarter combat, advanced driving and surveillance. Conversely, Padgham (2006) would describe theses as a 'myth of close protection' as it is in fact the softer skills such as communication, listening and flexibility that should be focused on.
This paper overall shares similar opinion of that highlighted by Aitch (2012), and agreed by Horak (2012), on omissions in the SIA close protection curriculum which conclude that the SIA curriculum isn't sufficient to train close protection operators for UK work. However these omissions are conversely argued by Padgham (2006) who is an advocate of the current curriculum due to its emphasis on softer skills, with Brown (2011) and Consterdine (2006) also agreeing that the current curriculum is fit for commercial close protection training.
To establish whether the SIA close protection curriculum is sufficient to train close operators to conduct their primary aim of protection, it is important to understand the threat in the UK. Today the world probably faces the highest ever level of threat to personal security and safety. In recent years, there has been a steady proliferation of terrorism, insurgency, organised crime, extremist movements and others who are prepared to resort to violence against individuals, groups, property and assets (Horak, 2012). Close protection is 'The preventative and reactive measures taken by close protection trained personnel to protect a person who is specifically or generally under threat of assassination, kidnapping or other illegal acts' (Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit, 2006). The SIA 'recognises that it is essential for all close protection operatives to have undergone a structured programme of learning and education resulting in recognised qualifications if they are to be effective and professional in their role.' (SIA, 2009). To be effective in the role you must understand and be able to mitigate the threats associated with it.
Terrorism poses the greatest severity of general threat and although since 2007 over forty terrorist attacks have been thwarted in the UK by the security services (Topping 2014), that we are aware of, attacks on the London transport network in 2005, Glasgow Airport in 2007 and most recently in 2013 outside of a British Army barracks in London show the nations vulnerability to such threats. With the UK's current threat level at severe, meaning an attack is highly likely (MI5, 2014), and the returning of home grown Islamic extremists radicalised following the conflicts in Syria and uprising of Islamic State in Iraq, ‘levels of terrorist activity in Britain are so acute an attack is almost inevitable’ (Hackett, 2014).
‘As economic growth in industrialized nations continue to suffer while unemployment rises, politicians attempt to cut back government and various social safety nets just when they seem to be most needed, mass protests have predictably erupted around the world’ (Shah, 2011). In the UK violent protests have seen members of the public inadvertently injured after being caught up and unable to leave the areas of unrest.
Between 2006 and 2012 in the UK, cases of robbery, where 55% of cases are conducted on the street, and violent crime against a person have averaged around 80,000 and 225,000 respectively. Figures are expected to have remained at this number for 2013 and 2014 (Office for National Statistics, 2014). Opportunist attacks like this, potentially conducted on the street by those impaired through alcohol or illegal substance misuse may be at the lower end of the general threat spectrum in terms of severity of attack but still cause concern due to the number of offences being committed.
In 2012 there were around 195,723 reported accidents on UK roads, including 1,754 deaths and 23,039 serious casualties (House of Commons Library, 2013). Therefore the likelihood of being involved in some form of accident is high and potentially the greatest threat to someone that they will face in the UK in comparison to the other threats, both general and specific, discussed in this paper.
Specific threats, those made directly against a person or organisation, can be the pre-cursor for the employment of a close protection operator or team. The threat is usually intelligence led with targets selected in order to achieve a particular aim. Targeted attacks are often considered more dangerous as someone has invested time and money in order to execute their attack effectively.
Serious organised crime in the form of tiger kidnap is on the increase, with figures from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) showing a yearly increase since 2003 (IFSECGlobal.com, 2014). There is potential for insider support here to the criminals by someone that is close, or that has socially engineered a position close, to the victim, who offers information in order to aid in executing the crime. Offenders generally take a long time to plan the crime with months of surveillance on victims common.
British businesses face ever increasing scrutiny in the way they conduct themselves and a number of stakeholders such as direct action and protest groups specifically target organisations in order to vent frustration, anger and try to change the way in which they operate in order to achieve their aim. This more specific threat can lead to senior business persons being identified, victimised and intimidated to the extent where they need security support to conduct their day without the distraction of potential threats from these groups.
Celebrity and high profile persons can be subject to stalking from overzealous fans who specifically seek to intrude on their lives and intimately view their lifestyle. Or to a more serious extent avenge jealousy of their perceived fame and fortune or carry out obsessive fantasy's created in their own minds such as the Jill Dando doorstep killing in 1999.
In order to mitigate these threats it is important to have the right calibre of person attend an SIA close protection training course as this will ultimately influence the standard of persons successfully passing the course. In order to attend the RMP CPU course you first have to pass a stringent pre-course personal examination with age and maturity being key in allowing you to progress onto pre course fitness to ensure the highest standards in those wanting to pursue such a specialist role. Aitch (2012) would argue that close protection operators must first have conducted some form of specialist military training, whereas Horak (2012) would argue that actually a lot of close protection operators have little or no experience in uniform. However what both do agree is that close protection is a specialist business and you can't just expect to walk straight into it. The military / civilian divide is one that is hotly debated in the security industry and in a survey of 231 security operatives conducted for this paper, only 56% said that they thought military or police experience was necessary before you started close protection training. On a commercial SIA close protection course the only pre-requisite for course attendance is a basic first aid certificate, so currently an eighteen year old straight out of education, with no driving license can attend the course, pass, be licensed and start conducting the close protection role.
With age comes life experience and is directly related to maturity in presentation, confidence and the ability to communicate at all levels. 'Principals will not have confidence in immaturity' (Aitch: 2012: 72). To conduct the close protection role you must communicate with people from all walks of the life, business CEO's, house staff, the principal's family, instilling confidence and professionalism in your ability to conduct the role is key if you are to succeed. In the role you will undertake comprehensive travel, stay in luxury hotels, use glamorous and executive cars and must have the physical presence and maturity to compliment the principal and not be overwhelmed by the situation (Horak, 2012).
In relation to the threats highlighted earlier in this paper, with age and life experience comes the ability to assess and react to incidents under pressure in addition to controlling and safely managing the principal in such situations. This is where not only a police or military background are vital but other forms of employment such as static guarding or door work where you have built situational awareness in order to identify and then manage threats. What Horak (2012) describes as countering difficult situations and thinking on the ground under pressure, like being caught up in a terrorist incident or riot and having the ability to successfully remove the principal from the situation due to your previous experience under extreme pressure. If you don't have the life experiences gained through age it can lead to a state of frozen confusion that occurs at the moment of shock (Brown, 2011) and ultimately jeopardises the safety of the principal. Those with limited life experience often do not have the working background to deal with such threats (Horak, 2012). Learning on the job in these situations is dangerous, especially if conducting the role without the comfort of a team.
In order to be licensed through the SIA in close protection you need to successfully be instructed on two modules that set out the core competencies of the SIA close protection curriculum and pass an exam. The first module encompasses fourteen separate sessions. The roles and responsibilities of a close protection operator so you know what is expected of you when conducting the role, especially your primary aim of protecting the principal by mitigating the threats highlighted in this paper. Threat and risk assessments in order that you can identify and implement correct control measures to mitigate the threats identified earlier in this paper. Surveillance awareness, especially pertinent in mitigating the threats against serious organised crime. Operational planning to enable executed the role effectively. Law and legislation so that you are always acting within the realms of the law and are legally compliant. Interpersonal skills, an essential trait while working in lower threat environments such as the UK where facilitation is nearly as important as providing security. Skills that that Padgham (2006) would argue are more essential over the harder skills Aitch (2012) believes the SIA have omitted from the curriculum due to an absence of understanding the provision of close protection. Close protection team work and briefing so skills taught can be conducted individually and as part of a team. Conducting reconnaissance which aids in operational planning and identifying potential vulnerable points of attack when conducting the role with a principal. Essential in mitigating against robbery or identifying areas which would be potential targets for terrorist attacks such as crowded areas, tourist hot spots or government locations so control measures can be put in place accordingly. Foot drills and the different formations that can be used dependent on the ground and environment you are operating in. Route selection and journey management to safely plan road moves and reduce the potentially high risk of traffic collision where possible. Search procedures to enable a safe working environment for the principal. Incident management to give an overview on what to do in the event of an incident. An essential module for those with no experience in situational awareness in order to identify and then manage threats. Finally venue security to secure areas from unwanted intrusion. The second module is based around conflict management, how to avoid it, defuse it, reduce the risk and learn from it. All of this would need to be completed within the SIA's stipulated 138 hours learning time.
Interviewee E, Marketing Director for The Security Advisor website which provides a platform for commercial close protection courses to be reviewed by former students, states that:
" On most commercial close protection courses who keep only to the SIA's stipulated 138 hours learning time, courses take place over twelve to fourteen days and can also include the first aid at work module, required for licensing, within this time frame. Therefore the standard teaching day must be a minimum of ten hours in length without breaks or time to reflect and revise on what is being taught."
The SIA syllabus is similar to that taught on the RMP CPU course with the main difference being the amount of time available for learning, the RMP CPU course is eight weeks in length. When interviewed for this paper, Interviewee C, former senior instructor on the Royal Military Police Close Protection Unit Course and now lead instructor on a leading commercial close protection course highlighted that:
"The SIA course duration means that it's more of an overview than a government course of longer duration where you get to go over and reinforce drills and lessons learnt. In addition, the SIA course is too intense and there should be more time to teach the syllabus as it can be a shock for someone doing it who normally works 9 - 5."
Peterson (2014) argues that adults generally stop retaining information being taught to them after twenty minutes, listening and understanding may take place up to ninety minutes but realistically twenty minutes is the optimum time for effective retention of information. Bligh (1998) supports Peterson (2014) and also suggests that after every twenty minutes a learners attention starts to wane, and a ten minute break every hour is required to ensure your audience stays with you for the other fifty minutes. It would also be important that after every piece of content within the session, students were allowed time to reflect on what was being taught, to clarify any points if necessary and bring to life the material with real life scenarios from the instructors. Interviewee F, a close protection operator newly licensed in 2014 described his learning experience on a commercial close protection course:
"There was so much to take in for someone new to the industry, by the time you had finished one module you were starting the next, although the instructors were from solid close protection backgrounds, having more time to conduct the course would have made it easier to learn and retain the information."
Therefore throughout a minimum ten hour day to ensure an effective learning environment, as suggested by Bligh (1998) and Peterson (2014), you would need to add around two hours for short breaks, lunch and time to revise, reflect and clarify the information being taught. The standard learning day on a course that keeps to the 138 hours training time over twelve to fourteen days would therefore be a minimum of twelve hours which is not an effective way to learn and retain information. This would be a difficult learning schedule to receive over one days instruction, but with this form of intense instruction over twelve to fourteen days with people not used to the classroom environment, your ability to take the subject matter in, retain it and implement it effectively post course is negligible.
In addition to the core competencies highlighted in this paper of which training providers are to teach prospective students to as a minimum level within the SIA's 138 hours stipulated training time, there are also what the SIA call specific skills for assignments for training providers to determine whether to instruct on or not. The specific skills left out of the SIA close protection curriculum are in stark contrast to the RMP CPU course which takes those specific skills, namely close quarter combat, advanced driving and surveillance and repeatedly drills them until they become instinctive. Importance reaffirmed by Horak (2012) who states your actions in close protection must be instantaneous where you have to react to the threat in real time, what Brown (2011) refers to as muscle memory. Aitch (2012) would determine that these GAPS in the SIA curriculum are due to the SIA's stark lack of understanding of the close protection role.
With aim of close protection being to use preventative and reactive measures to protect someone specifically or generally under the threats as highlighted earlier in this paper, the omission of close quarter combat from the SIA syllabus means there is no way to ensure all those licensed have the ability to their carry out their primary aim of protection in the role. Aitch (2012) and Padgham (2006) would clash on this topic with Aitch opting for the harder skills over the softer skills promoted by Padgham. But Interviewee E, Krav Maga expert and unarmed combat instructor for security professionals would agree with Aitch (2012) and when interviewed for this paper stated that:
"As a close protection operator you have a responsibility to protect your principal. If you can't defend yourself let alone those you are meant to be protecting then you are not effective in the role. If you have the harder skills you can de-escalate, if you only have the soft skills you have nowhere to go."
'The role of the close protection driver is vitally important. The importance of driving within the close protection world cannot be overstated. A large percentage of operational time is spent in vehicles and the conveyance of the principal exposes them to risk of safety (Aitch: 2012: 550). However Padgham (2006) would disagree and thinks it's a popular misconception that you need to posses the ability to drive like a rally driver to conduct the close protection role. The SIA may echo the view from Padgham (2006) as advanced driving isn't a core competency on the SIA close protection curriculum. But with the statistics for road accidents as highlighted earlier in this paper being so high, you are more likely to become victim of a traffic collision than you are a hostile threat. So without an opportunity for prospective close protection operators to be assessed on driving ability there is potential for those licensed to not reduce, or in fact to increase, the threat to the principal due to their driving ability. Interviewee D, Managing Director of the only company in the world to provide a level three qualification in security chauffeuring, reaffirms the importance of driving in the close protection role:
" You need to understand the basics of car control in order to reduce the risk of traffic accidents, but then step that basic training up to evasive driving so you can mitigate any threats associated with conducting the CP driving role. If you are being surveyed, appearing competent and professional driving a car can be enough to stop those with hostile intent triggering an attack on you."
The art of surveillance cannot be taught in theoretical isolation (Hartford, 2014). Which is how the SIA deem it appropriate to be taught. The module titled 'surveillance awareness', described by the SIA as a basic understanding, and would be defined by the oxford dictionary as 'knowledge of a situation' allows students to describe surveillance but there is no onus on practical application of such an important core competency and is described as a 'token effort at best' by Interviewee A (Appendix B). Galahad Associates (2013) stress the importance of surveillance as a skill for close protection operators as quality surveillance is the best defence against hostile action and in many cases it's the only defence. Any hostile act from street crime to kidnap will be proceeded by some form of surveillance activity. Therefore a module not taught to be instinctive to the point where close protection operators would be competent to identify threats as highlighted earlier in this paper through surveillance would again leave operators incompetent of conducting their primary aim of protection.
From the research conducted for this paper there are a number of recommendations that could be implemented in order to improve the competency of close protection operators successfully completing SIA regulated courses before embarking on UK work.
By establishing a minimum age limit of 25 as a prerequisite for course attendance it will ensure those attending have a level of maturity, confidence and professionalism in order to compliment the principal of which they are working with and not be overwhelmed by the situations they may encounter. More importantly it will ensure those attending have an amount of life experience and situational awareness to draw upon in countering difficult situations and thinking on the ground under pressure in mitigating the threats highlighted in this paper. Skills that they won't necessarily have gained from a current 138 hour SIA close protection course due to its intensity and not having the ability to practically apply theories until they become instinctive.
By lengthening the course and the SIA regulating it to be conducted over a longer time frame thus reducing its intensity it will enable training providers to ensure advised breaks are taken to increase the amount of information students retain and are able to effectively implement post course making them more effective operators. Core competencies could be reflected upon and reinforced with practical application enabling them to be more instinctive skills, committed to muscle memory, instead of just being taught in theory. However lengthening the current stipulated training time must be done to an extent where courses are still commercially viable as it is more than likely to increase attendance costs.
By lengthening the course you could also add close quarter combat, advanced driving and surveillance, currently unregulated skills for assignment, with them being so important to the primary aim of a close protection operator in providing protection to mitigate threats. Instead making them regulated core competencies through the SIA rather than leaving it to training providers to determine whether they should be taught or not. Or for close quarter combat and advanced driving have an assessment phase where you are assessed on your ability to defend yourself and level of driving competency which would ultimately determine whether you passed the course in conjunction with the end of course exam. You would therefore need personnel who were able to assess in those competencies, which would also have to be regulated by the SIA.
The aim of the SIA is to regulate the industry effectively, raise standards and ensure that private security operatives are 'fit for purpose' persons who are properly trained to do their job. The primary aim of a close protection operator is to protect a person who is specifically or generally under threat. So to be properly trained to do your job you must be able to protect someone who is under threat. Therefore for the SIA to regulate the industry effectively, the close protection training course has to be fit for purpose and include competencies that would allow close protection operators to conduct their primary aim of protecting the principal because without these skills operators are not effective in role. A balance needs to be established between providing a higher standard of training in order to do this but at the same time ensuring courses are still commercially viable.
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