Close Protection - A Specialist Industry...?

Conducting an infantry role in a non-infantry unit did not appeal to me. I had only been in the Army a couple of years but I wanted to be surrounded by keen soldiers doing a professional soldiering role at the very best the British Army can provide. I was a member of the Royal Military Police based in Londonderry and after only a couple of years applied for a transfer to the Parachute Regiment. I first became interested in Close Protection in 1991 during this period when I observed keen members of the RMP with that 'professional approach' strolling around with their HK 53's. That image stuck when I left and stayed with me the entire time I was in 3 Para. After 5 years in the Paras I was keen on eventually pursuing this specialist 'CP' role and transferred back to RMP solely to do the course. I was posted to Para Provost, the Aldershot based RMP Airborne unit - the perfect place to be loaded onto the RMP CP Course. It wasn't long before reason became reality and the painful slog of paper moves and the long wait in transferring (for the second time), conducting the bone RMP basic training (for the second time) was over and I was on course. Within 2 weeks of completing the course I was rapidly deployed on the first CPT to be deployed to Mostar; 6 months providing CP to the late Sir Martin Garrod, UK Special Envoy to the EU. On return I was posted to Northern Ireland again but in the CP role and became personal BG to two General Officers Commanding NI, an extended posting of nearly 3 years. Immediately afterwards I was posted for 6 months to Algiers as a member of the CPT providing protection to the British Ambassador. The 12-year service point was my time to move on and I have not looked back. After an initial 3 years providing CP to various celebrities, and businessmen I secured a role that suited me perfectly. I planned, implemented and managed a highly successful international security operation for over 10 years for one of the world's most powerful international businessmen, owner of the world's largest company within its industry sector; involving covert, low and high-profile Close Protection, implementation and oversight of security systems installations and the recruitment and training of specialist British, French, Russian, German and Chinese manpower to justified budgets - and continue to do so for the same. I have compiled threat & risk assessments for numerous office and residence locations worldwide in addition to port and ship vulnerability assessments for super yachts. I have been responsible for pre-planning assessment and production of security recommendations resulting in acquisitions of physical and electronic security systems to disbursement of GBP millions with international multi-site responsibility working closely with leading architects and interior designers. I have directed and coordinated the security team as requested by the Board, given security advice and guidance and provided security assessments and Close Protection as Team Leader in 49 countries across 6 continents. I have facilitated weapons and armoured vehicles and conducted briefings for additional local teams for visits to higher-risk environments including several of the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, (APEC), liaising with Embassies, Police and Presidential CP Teams worldwide. I have landed firmly on my feet in the commercial world and enjoy it immensely. Yes, I do remember the military life, the ethos, the professional work ethic, and the hard courses including the SF one - any ex-solder will tell you these things, these experiences will stay with you for the rest of your life. But, this was now the commercial world and my eyes were opened wide in more ways than one. In 2006, I loaded my team and myself onto a 'CP Refresher Course'. This was no 'refresher course' but merely a 3-day Accreditation of Prior Learning to satisfy the application process for an SIA CP license. We didn't need that license as we were directly employed by the client - and continue to be so. Yet, I wanted myself and my guys to have that tick in the box. Call it intrigue, curiosity or simply a professional approach. Whatever the reason was, our presence on that course caused me to be infuriated. All my team were ex-RMP CP, all of whom I had served with. We were government trained and experienced in a role that to me was (and is) a specialist one. An aspect that as far as I was concerned exposed us to the pinnacle of CP operations anywhere in the world. The 24 hour/ 3 day 'refresher course' was a derogatory debacle in the extreme and I was not going to take this lying down. I produced a comprehensive critique report to the Home Office, Cabinet Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary & the Security Industry Authority critically summarising the Security Industry Authority's stipulated operational skills and training standards for licensing Close Protection operatives in the UK. I was subsequently requested to sit on the national security skills advisory panel for Close Protection training providing advice and guidance in reviewing the National Occupational Standards. I authored several articles for Security Management publications covering leadership and effective decision making for Security Managers. I was interviewed by the Associated Press and the Guardian Newspaper concerning the level of security afforded to Pope Francis and the portrayal of the theatre production of "The Bodyguard" respectively - in all - I underlined the importance of standards and managed to change them for the better where I could. I soon came to realise the huge difference between the government world and the commercial one - standards. It is high standards in Close Protection that will encompass best practise in mitigating those risk(s) to threat(s) and in providing the service that the Principal expects and demands. These 'standards' however have to be taught and the commercial world has a dire need to understand the detrimental influence if they are not. Since 2006 the Security Industry Authority has implemented a below-par standard that in their Chairman's own letter to me in 2008 stated that the SIA "simply did not set out to produce the finished article", agrees. Even though the SIA know this, they have fundamentally failed to rectify it preferring to push the responsibility to the training provider and/ or contract service provider. So what has the last 17 years of doing so proved? It has proved to create an industry rife with muppetism. An industry awash with ineptness of attitude, knowledge and ability. An industry whereby training providers are milking the cow regardless of concern for the end result. An industry that is far below par and one that is left for the client/ principal to roll a dice. The situation needed highlighting and what better way than the printed word? I authored the book; 'Close Protection - A Closer Observation of the Protection Equation'. In the short period since publication it has far exceeded my expectations. It is critically acclaimed as the leading publications on Close Protection, subsequently adopted as the training manual on both government and commercial Close Protection training courses worldwide; used as a textbook by academics in the field of Criminology; recommended as background reader for the Degree in Protective Security Management, Buckinghamshire New University. Arabic translation and publication rights acquired by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies & Research and used by the protective security forces of Abu Dhabi, UAE and is currently being considered by a leading Counter Terrorist University Program for inclusion. To me, the bottom line to this is that is shows the industry of Close Protection the world over wants to be the best it can be. It doesn't want to meander in the unfit for purpose standard of empty suits but wants to constantly adapt and improve. It understands the importance of standards and how these shape the end result of any protection operation. It has to accept higher standards; it needs to accept higher standards. With the exceptions of profitability, market forces and business sense, the industry can improve but all those operating in it must understand that this is a specialist industry sector; one in that all those engaged must prove. Richard Aitch


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