What's it really like?
Marc Yates, 50 years old is a close protection officer with 20 years experience in the field.
What did you do before this job?I was in construction and I worked as a bodyguard, protecting cars which travelled around full of cash to pay the hundreds of British migrant workers working in Germany, in the late 70s during the German construction boom. That's where I first got my teeth into body guarding.
What do you do in a typical day at work?
On a typical agency day we could initially receive a brief from a client; I would then conduct a threat assessment. Included in the threat assessment would be a profile assessment of particular individuals or groups who we've identified that may wish to harm our client or clients. This involves researching and intelligence gathering. We then formulate an operational plan. We are looking specifically to identify the risk factor for the operation. They fall into four categories - low, medium, high and extremely high risk. The risk factor dictates how many other officers I have to pull in to the team for that contract. Low risk may be two, but if it's high then there will be a minimum of six officers.
What do you like about the job? I like the professionalism very much. I work on the premise that avoidance beats confrontation. I'm a firm believer in that to do what we do properly and successfully you have to be professionally trained. I also like the travel, I like meeting interesting people and I like protecting people who can't protect themselves. I have one of the best close protection teams in the world so I'm really comfortable there.
What do you dislike about the job? Cowboys, i.e. unprofessional CPOs. Cowboys get you killed. The government-backed SIA scheme has gone a long way to improving the industry.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing this job? Conduct in depth research before you sign up with an agency for training or work. There are only eight or nine top class CPO training agencies out of thousands, so be careful. It will cost you a lot to become fully trained.
What job do you think you might do after this role in terms of career progression?
You can move from an officer up to a team leader, then to a security consultant and from consultant to director of your own security company.
What other inside-information can you give to help people considering this career?
It's a very in-depth kind of career. There are various categories of body guarding; although most people think it's about standing outside a limousine in a sharp suit and sun glasses, it's far more than that. It's not for the faint hearted; you will undoubtedly be faced with some kind of serious incident of violence, especially if you work in medium, high risk and extremely high risk operations. One myth is that you have to be former military but quite often civilians slot very nicely into close protection. They have the advantage of being able to fade into the background better than a highly trained military expert, which is useful for covert operations.
Also known as...
- Close Protection Officer
- Security consultant
- Police Officer
- Army officer
A bodyguard is a highly trained security operative who protects his clients against personal attack, harassment or kidnapping.
Close protection officers are contracted where there is a threat or potential threat to an individual's or group of individuals' safety. From high profile public appearances where unruly fans could harm a celebrity, to overseas business trips in politically unstable countries, close protection officers provide peace of mind and protection in risky situations.
Depending on the particular situation, the contract may require overt (as an obvious, stated deterrent) or covert protection. Especially high risk situations will probably require both. Although the demographic of close protection officers is mostly male, female CPOs are often used in covert situations or where the client requires more discretion where they can more easily blend in as a member of the family or a girlfriend.
Close protection has its own set of equipment. On high risk contracts the following equipment may be used:
- Kevlar body armour for the bodyguards and/or close protection officers.
- Reinforced cars with bullet proof glass.
- Automatic weapons modified to make them more concealable and manoeuvrable in tight spaces such as the HK MP5k sub machine gun.
- An extendable baton for close quarters combat.
- A medical kit with plasma.
- Secure communications equipment.
Remuneration is often paid on a contractual basis so the close protection officer is basically self-employed, only earning when he is on a job. A daily rate is common and the amount paid depends on the risk factor involved.
- Low risk, national operations pay from £300 - £400 per day.
- Medium risk overseas operations pay around £400 - £500 per day.
- High risk operations pay around £1000 per day.
- Extremely high risk operations pay up to £1500 per day.
The typical responsibilities of a close protection officer include:
- Performing detailed threat analysis on each contract, such as known or potential aggressors, and medical history of client
- Planning out routes in advance with the help of security consultants
- Securing destinations, clearing them of hostile surveillance equipment, and checking exits
- Accompanying clients in their day to day activities
- Driving clients to and from engagements
- Providing round the clock protection whilst clients enjoy leisure time, or sleep
The Security Industry Association (SIA) is the UK regulating body for close protection officers and other security personnel. In order to work as a bodyguard in the UK you must first attain a front line close protection licence. In order to get this you will need to study one of the following qualifications:
- Certificate in Protective Security: Buckingham New University
- City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Close Protection
- BTEC Level 3 Certificate in Close Protection Operations
Potential bodyguards must also provide evidence of a recent first aid certificate, accredited by the SIA as below:
- HSE - First Aid at work, 4 day course
- FPOS - First Person on Scene, 30 hours
You can see a complete list of SIA endorsed training providers here.
Close protection training will contain the following elements. After graduation an officer may go on to specialise through the course of his career in one or more of these areas:
- Route reconnaissance - looking out for potential pitfalls on route.
- Venue reconnaissance - securing the destination point, freeing it from bugging devices or threats.
- Embussing and debussing - the military terms given to getting a client in and out of a vehicle safely, the most dangerous part of a high risk operation.
- Close quarters battle - using pistols in crowded areas without hurting innocents with the aim of removing the client from danger.
- Offensive and defensive driving - using vehicles as a weapon or means of escape.
Apart from the standard qualifications required to work as a bodyguard, the following personal attributes would be useful:
- Discretion - client confidentiality is paramount.
- The ability to blend into a crowd and not be noticed.
- Conversely, the ability to stand out and provide a visual deterrent to others.
- Excellent powers of concentration and observation especially during lengthy periods of inactivity.
- The ability to keep a calm cool head in a crisis and think on your feet.
- Excellent vision and hearing.
- Great team working skills - bodyguards seldom work alone.
- The ability to improvise in the face of rapidly changing situations.
- Good communication skills.
As a close protection officer you could be working with a range of clients such as foreign or national dignitaries, high profile celebrities or business people, politicians or the families of any of these groups. Day to way work would mean accompanying them everywhere they went, possibly driving them there and in high risk situations, planning how they get there and back. Detailed planning can take place in an office beforehand and reconnaissance may need to be undertaken in destination buildings, proposed transport routes, business premises and the client's own home.
The job is high risk, which is reflected in the pay: the higher the risk the higher the pay. Hours can be long and vigilance must be maintained at all times, sometimes 24 hours in which case shift work is involved. Clients may be undertaking travel to foreign countries so long periods away from home could be involved. Physical threat may come from potential kidnappers, overzealous fans, robbers or assassins. Although everything is done to minimise any perceived threat, if an attack does take place the close protection officer must be fit enough and trained to a standard where they can deal with any situation.
Many people coming into the close protection industry come from a military background. Familiarisation with firearms, covert operations and strategic planning make them ideal candidates. Much close protection work in the UK will not involve the use of firearms, however, and military experience is useful but not a prerequisite.
As an alternative to having been in the army full time, experience in the territorial army would be advantageous, as would experience working in other forms of security, such as working as a doorman.
Private security firms are the main employers of close protection officers. You can find a full list of BSIA (British Security Industry Association) accredited firms here
Experienced close protection officers can go on to become security consultants, involved in the planning and management of operations.
Close protection officers are obliged to renew their SIA licence every 3 years.