It is important to know the facts if you are interested in becoming a close protection officer. Unfortunately, with society’s obsession with celebrity, Hollywood films and other influences, the idea of what it means to work in close protection has been some what romanticized. In an attempt to clear up some of the mystique and misunderstanding, we are going to look at the role and what you can expect from it.
In truth, their are two types of close protection officers; those with VIP/Executives and those in Hostile Environments.
VIP/EXECUTIVE CLOSE PROTECTION
Ensure the safety of your Principle
Essentially a close protection officer is employed to ensure the safety of their principle. The principle will often be an individual, or family who could be a target for assault, kidnapping, terrorist attacks and other threats. Celebrities and high net worth individuals will also employ protection officers, to safeguard them from various types of threat.
Depending on the environment in which they are working, the risks and needs of the principle and the potential type of threat, a Close Protection Officer’s responsibilities will be wide ranging. Three basic principles do determine the kind of duties expected however.
1. The level of risk for the principle
High-risk principles such as top government officials may find their lives at risk if not sufficiently protected. Responsibilities for a close protection officer in these circumstances would involve checking for Improvised Devices (I.E.Ds) anticipating and watching for potential snipers, anticipating choke points on a route etc. A principle of this nature will almost definitely have a team of officers protecting them.
2. The type of client
A celebrity is less likely to feel that their lives are in danger. The common risk that a celebrity experiences is that of their privacy being abused. In these circumstances a Close Protection Officer’s main duty is to ensure fans do not become problematic (each principle will have a tolerance level and it is important for a good officer to gauge this) and of course to keep photographers at a safe distance.
Although the risk is generally lower for this type of client, a close protection officer under these circumstances will often work alone. This means that full responsibility for the principle belongs to them. Their job is to be as discrete as possible, especially as the principle will often be in the public eye.
3. The assigned role
A close protection officer (when working as part of a team), will often be assigned a specific role. For instance, your main duty could be that of a driver. You could also be part of an ancillary unit that actually works at a distance from the principle. Your role in these circumstances is to conduct the search of facilities or various background checks such as conducting electronic bug detection.
The specific role a close protection officer is assigned, will be a result of their training and experience.
HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT CLOSE PROTECTION
There has been a huge increase in the amount of Hostile Environment work available to SIA qualified close protection officers with the right experience. With the ongoing conflict in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, there is much demand for close protection officers willing to take on such high-risk appointments. In fact it has been estimated that there were approaching 30,000 trained Close Protection Officers operating in Iraq during a peek in 2011.
Experience is key here as the work is dangerous. Close protection work of this nature involves working as part of an armed team in areas that are much like a war zone. Deaths and serious injury can and will happen. To even stand a chance of working in a position such as this, you will be highly experienced ex military with years of training in hostile environments. Extensive weapons training and knowledge of IED’s (improvised explosive devices) and their operation/detection are all necessary skillsets. A newly SIA licensed close protection officer with firearms training need not apply.
The personnel responsible for hiring close protection officers to work in such conditions are typically ex military themselves. In many ways it is a closed off world until you are able to break through with the correct skills and contacts. As stated above, a typical candidate for a position will usually have around 6-8 years active service, with at least 1 tour of an environment such as Iraq or Afghanistan.