2 February 2024

What Does A Close Protection Operative Actually Do?

Close protection operatives are sometimes known as bodyguards. This role is essential for safeguarding individuals – usually high profile or at-risk clients – from potential security threats.

The role is often hyped up in the media, but this is also the source of many misconceptions around the job. The role of the close protection operative involves a wide range of responsibilities and tasks that go beyond what is shown in film and TV. 

While film and TV depictions might focus on confrontations, more time will be spent avoiding security threats. The role of the close protection officer is as much about prevention as intervention. In this guide, we’re looking at the duties and function of a close protection officer in more detail.

What exactly is a close protection officer?

What exactly is a close protection officer?

The main role of a close protection officer is to provide protection for their client. Their clients are usually high profile individuals who might be a target because of their public profile or their wealth.

The close protection officer works alongside other security personnel to protect their client by helping to organise travel, support them when they are away from their home, and work with their home security company to minimise the risk of threats. These are specially trained individuals with extensive experience in risk assessment and strong situational awareness. 

Key responsibilities of a close protection officer

Key responsibilities of a close protection officer

  • Risk assessment and planning – A close protection officer will approach every situation with a clear mind. They are looking for potential threats and imagining the worst case scenario. This allows them to plan for every eventuality and minimise the risk of common threats.
  • Escorting clients – A core part of the role involves accompanying their client everywhere. They will plan entry and exit routes for new locations, work alongside site security and police officers, and be present to neutralise threats and get their client out of a sticky situation. 
  • Constant surveillance – An important part of this role involves observing everything and being able to quickly identify when something is amiss. They will monitor their surroundings and be able to identify when there is suspicious behaviour that could translate to a threat to their client’s safety.
  • Advancing – Before their client can visit a new location, their close protection officer has already completed a risk assessment. They have planned their entry and exit, and created a plan B (and C) in case something goes wrong during the visit. They need to work closely with personal assistants to clear travel plans and ensure that their client is never walking into a situation that could put them at risk.
  • Emergency response – If there is a situation that needs to be dealt with, the close protection officer is always ready to act. They have to take swift and decisive action to identify and remove threats. This might mean engaging with a person who is acting suspicious or threatening their client. It could also mean deciding when to evacuate a situation.
  • Security team coordination – The close protection officer rarely works alone. They will have the support of their client’s other security professionals, which could include home security, corporate security and law enforcement. They will need to be able to communicate clearly with these individuals to make sure key people are kept up to date with events at all times. They need to be assertive, but also able to follow clear instructions when someone who outranks them makes a call.
  • Client liaison – Close protection officers will spend a lot of time with their client. They’ll travel with them, get to know their work and meet with their friends and family. It’s essential to be personable without ever crossing the professional line.
  • Travel planning – Working closely with personal assistants, the close protection officer will play a role in travel planning to ensure that high risk locations are cleared before the client makes a move. They are often responsible for driving and are trained in tactical and evasive driving manoeuvres that will help to avoid threats on the road.
  • Demonstrate cultural awareness – Close protection operatives operate in diverse environments and must possess cultural sensitivity and social intelligence to navigate different social customs, local etiquette and cultural sensitivities. This will also help them to blend in wherever they go.

What training is needed to become a close protection officer?

What training is needed to become a close protection officer?

Becoming a close protection operative requires rigorous training and certification. Many professionals in this field have backgrounds in law enforcement, military service or private security, but this is not by any means a necessity. Specialised training programmes cover a wide range of topics, including defensive tactics, firearms proficiency, first aid, threat assessment and tactical driving.

Securing a close protection qualification regulated by the SIA is one of the best ways to land a role in this field. This rigorous training programme covers everything you need to know to be effective in your role.

Courses usually take around 19 days to complete and cover the following units:

  • Unit 1: Working in the Private Security Industry
  • Unit 2: Working as a Close Protection Operative
  • Unit 3: Conflict Management

The course is intentionally fast-paced and intended to cover a lot of material in a short space of time, with plenty of practical tasks to complete. This training style encourages mind and body awareness, which helps to prepare would-be close protection operatives for real-life situations. 

It is also worth noting that a close protection licence from the SIA means the holder can also work as a door supervisor or security guard if he wishes to do so.

Conclusion

The role of a close protection operative is multifaceted and demanding, encompassing a broad spectrum of responsibilities aimed at ensuring the safety, security and wellbeing of their clients. 

Beyond physical protection, close protection operatives must possess strong interpersonal skills, strategic thinking abilities and the capacity to adapt to dynamic and unpredictable situations. 

By meticulously planning and executing security protocols, close protection operatives play a vital role in mitigating risks and safeguarding their clients in an increasingly complex and unpredictable world.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not a role that individuals can fall into after leaving other professions. It requires extensive and specialised training to ensure the individual is fully equipped to handle the challenges ahead.