“If the local language is violence, be fluent in it – while protecting your principal.”
Throughout history, leaders, CEOs, and influential people have been engaging Close Protection (CP) operatives for their personal security. One of the earliest models of Close Protection is of Praetorian Guards, which acted as a group of bodyguards for Roman generals around the 2nd century BC. Yeomen of the Guard still exists, but was first established by King Henry VII in 1485, to work as the personal protection unit for the monarch of England. Other personal protection groups in history include the Housecarls of Scandinavia, the medieval knights of many European states, the Samurai of Japan, and the Vatican’s Swiss Guard. These ancestors of today’s Close Protection operatives were primarily military units that were assigned to protect the VIPs of their time.
The modern history of Close Protection started with the formation of the United States Secret Service in 1865, which was originally established to investigate currency counterfeiting, but finally, in 1902 it assumed complete responsibility of protecting the US Presidents. Alternatively, the profession of CP is also called Executive Protection, Bodyguards, Personal Protection, etc.
Duty of Care, Compliance and Corporate environments
Like any public organization, CP details are also deputed in the corporate world for senior executives, employees, visitors and family members. It is to ensure Duty of Care and Compliance, which is the primary responsibility of the security management.
In the 1990s and especially after 9/11, as a result of the rise in crime and terrorism, interest in corporate CP began to increase. This trend was also fuelled because of a few high-profile executive kidnappings in the West, which ultimately led to paying huge ransom amounts and even some deaths.
Corporations soon began to see the value of providing their top executives with CP. With time, executives also started feeling comfortable, while having required security around them. The essence and backbone of quality for CP operation is to foresee and be prepared to stop any security issue “as early” and “as far away from the principal” – as possible.
Close Protection and Pakistan
Unfortunately, in Pakistan, because of some very obvious reasons, the profession of CP is still in the embryonic stage. This is despite the fact that Pakistan remained in the eye of the storm of terrorism for quite some time.
The basic reason behind the existing depleted standard of local CPs is mainly the lack of trainers and training facilities. Moreover, service providers are not interested to invest to improve the standards. Unfortunately, the users have also accepted whatever they receive from the market.
While working in the corporate sector, mostly local CPs are drawn from the ranks of Special Services and other law enforcement agencies, where they operate as a team of ten to twenty individuals; whereas in the corporate sector mostly they have to function as an individual or at most two, that too while keeping a low profile. The skillset required for this operation is completely different. Moreover, since there is no formal training available for this type of operation, the quality of performance remains lower than expected.
Having CP – A complete process
Having a competent CP in your organization is one of the important security-related decisions, and it is not like buying any other security apparatus or a guard; you would be about to have the most vital security operator, who will be responsible to safeguard the key assets of your organization i.e. C-Suite.
Considering this, there is a definite requirement of deliberation and due-diligence in acquiring CPs. In the succeeding paragraphs, we will concisely discuss how to make sure that the hired CP is worth his position and importance.
It is widely said that recruitment is a process to attract a large number of candidates for a job, but in case of CPs recruitment, the priority should be to attract the right type of candidates. The advertisement should be very deliberate and precise, and mentioning expected salary/tenure of employment is quite important.
How we normally do the selection? We advertise, receive résumés, shortlist the candidates, call shortlisted candidates for a formal interview, and based on the interview make a final selection and then a three-month probationary period starts for the selected individual.
In such cases, the performances are usually not evaluated tangibly, recruiters don’t get a very clear idea about their actual performances and then we also know that CVs are manipulated and candidates may brag about their previous performances.
So how to do a qualitative or quantitative selection of a CP? Actually, it is quite simple, we just need to make a chart of activities we desire to have in a CP, and on a scale from 1 to 10, CPs should be evaluated for each activity. Those activities can be physical fitness, observation test, first-aid, shooting skills, risk assessment, etc.
Now, in addition to the verbal interview, this scenario-based practical test would make the selection very transparent and tangible. Here, I would like to quote an example; if you ask ten (10) potential CP candidates that whether they know how to use CPR, all of them will most probably say – yes, but if you put them in a test, you would be able to know the actual situation. The same goes for shooting, risk assessment, physical fitness, etc.
In addition to fair and transparent selection, this test would also serve as a “need assessment” of the selected CP for any future competency development.
As discussed above, it is not justifiable to send CP for a task with a principal, until he is absolutely ready to deliver quality performance. At this point, a service provider has to put an investment in the shape of money and time on selected CP, essentially to fill the gaps that emerged in the above described “need assessment”.
The skills which are to be enhanced can be broadly divided into three main types, some of which have been explained below.
Shooting – CPs should be extremely competent in shooting and weapon handling, should always train with their operational weapons, and the visit of the shooting lane should be consistent and frequent. Some stress-inducing exercises should be included in their routine training, while they fire.
They should also be comprehensively trained in “double-tap”, “controlled-pair”; and be engaged in the practice of “popping-up” targets.
Physical fitness – CP has to be in a good physical shape to remain alert throughout his performance. It is not just enough for CPs to run a mile on daily basis, instead, there is a need to get the services of a physical trainer to make a progressive fitness program for a longer-term. There are many programs available on the internet – related to cardio, strength, and flexibility.
Firstaid – In the case of an incident, casualties will completely rely on first-responders to save their lives. A person with a catastrophic haemorrhage will die in minutes. But if CP, who is trained in trauma can intervene, the injured will have a much better chance of survival.
CPs should be at least trained in catastrophic bleeding control, airway management, resuscitation (CPR/AED), burn management, use of tourniquets and pressure bandages.
Risk Management – Although a CP is not a risk manager, but to completely fulfil the professional obligations he needs to know about the detailed structure of risk management. The knowledge about context, assets, threats, vulnerabilities, risks, and their mitigation measures should be part of a CP’s daily routine and should be included in the training.
CP should be comfortable while analysing the following sample questions:
• Who would want to harm the principal?
• What is the current likelihood of the various identified threats?
• How to mitigate the related risks?
Secondly, CP should be able to foresee the following threats, and be able to mitigate them amicably, if challenged:
• Workplace violence
• Any other undesired events
Incident Management – This is one of the very important skills, which a CP should have command over. Generally, we don’t train or practice incident management, due to this in case of an incident, CPs performance is mostly rather questionable.
CP should be put against the set of most likely scenarios during training, and their responses should be evaluated and further improved, accordingly.
Driving – Driving is a basic essential skill for a CP, but especially when road travel is more frequent and long. Ideally, the CP should have thorough knowledge about evasive, defensive and hostile driving skills, which are needed in case there is any unforeseen incident with a driver while traveling.
Specialized Skills – There are also some specialized skills, which are part of the package which a CP is supposed to bring along. Out of these, the most important skill is knowing the art of un-armed combat.
Although CP normally carries a weapon, but it should not be used, unless essentially required; in that case, unarmed combat is the most effective way to handle the situation. Another skill is “working the principal” which means knowing how to physically walk with the principal. There are many types of walking drills for different situations.
Travel Security – CP essentially travels with the principal, whether it is by-air or by-road. Owing to that CP should be at ease with the mechanics of Pre Travel Advice (PTA) and Journey Management Plan (JMP).
Knowledge about hotel and venue security is a vital part of CP’s daily routine.
IT savvy – CP should be able to operate internet to discover and track information on the principal as well as on individuals, organizations, and conditions that might pose a threat to the principal.
By developing a virtual network with other professionals, CP would be able to have the right answers to his queries.
Communication – Good communication skill is something which is always sought for a CP. This skill not only gives an overall better impression about the CP, but also helps in building a better professional relationship with Principal. It becomes an absolute requirement if the principal is a foreigner. It is always useful to engage CPs using English through different mediums, and one of the best ways is to show them movies that are directly related to CP work.
Some of the movies that can be helpful in this regard are Guarding Tess, Vantage Point, Man on Fire, The Bodyguard, The Minder, In the Line of Fire, Taken, Ronin, The Sentinel, Dave, Close and Executive Protection.
What if Scenarios
After imparting the above-mentioned training skills, it would be more appropriate to test and evaluate the individual CP performances. This phase can be highly rewarding, if the trainers develop and put CP in the right kind of scenarios. The scenarios and their backdrop should be so realistic that CP gets out of the comfort zone.
For example, a scenario where a principal needs medical assistance during a journey – after realistically posing this situation, one can analyse CP’s reactions and related shortfalls. There can be hundreds of similar scenarios that should be built around the training regime by a professional trainer.
An alternative way of doing this training is through audits, which can be either announced or unannounced. Red Teaming is another term used for training evaluation. After these training and evaluation processes, we may have to adjust our procedures, equipment, or any other potential gaps that have been identified.
Quality product & its commercial usage
Presenting a quality product to a client speaks about the organization. The companies proposing these services should work on their training structure to offer a better product. Only after going through the required training, one can have a CP that matches the actual requirement of the client. Such type of training activities requires time, energy, and finances. This is one reason that at times it is not considered financially viable. However, there are always clients in the market like INGOs, foreign missions, multinational companies and visiting foreign dignitaries in the private sector who happily pay for quality services.
CPs – Core Principles
• Know Before You Go – Do your homework well in advance, pay attention to the minutest details, mark checklists and plan comprehensively.
• Remain alert no matter how boring the task is and don’t be distracted from the main task of protection. Keep on matching the threats and your mitigation measures.
• CP’s task is to avoid the threat and move towards safety, and not to confront unnecessarily.
• In general, if you remain extremely professional, your advice will be respected in an emergency.
• Stand close enough to protect, but not so close that principal has to introduce you. Despite that, be ready to place yourself between the threat and the principal.
• Know 6ps About Principal – people, places, personality, prejudices, political and/or religious persuasions, private lifestyle.
• 8 Deadly Sins – complacency, routine, looking but not seeing, unresponsiveness, panic, adopting and not adapting, accepting convenience for security, secret shared is a secret halved (need to know/good to know).
• “Train hard, fight easy” truly matches the expected routine of a CP.
This article is just a cursory effort to create awareness among the security professionals, whereas, training a CP is an extremely specialized job, and only highly motivated, well-trained, and mentally alert trainers can perform, satisfactorily.
It would be completely unjustified to pitch these semi/un-trained operatives against terrorists, who are brutal in their mentality, are highly trained, and are extremely sharp in their reflexes. Moreover, terrorists have the advantage of the initiative and the initial surprise element.
Furthermore, these terrorists are willing to lay down their lives for their cause; whereas CPs are supposed not only to save themselves but their principals too and need a higher skill set.
The operational managers, with CPs under them, should very objectively ask themselves whether their CPs are ready to face this daunting challenge. One way is to think that “nothing happens”, but the most appropriate would be to accept the challenge and raise the level of CPs according to the threat they are expected to face.