20 Oct Should All Members of Parliament Have Close Protection – At All Times?
“Security is a compromise dictated by money and party politics”
A Draft Proposal for Police Protection Command & Private Sector Collaboration
A Concept of Operations for the Personal Protection of Members of Parliament
Attacks on MPs are attacks on the Government, and in turn, are attacks on democracy. Extremist terrorism emanating from radical groups and individuals in the UK naturally pose the greatest threat to MPs with ‘lone wolf’ actors probably presenting one of the worst.
Due to the recent tragic murder of Sir David Amess, it is agreed by both HMG and Mobius International that not only a security review of all MPs has an immediate and imperative need but that definitive action must be conducted to ensure the security of all. The approach to the decision-making process remains both a complicated and difficult one due to the comparative large-scale complexity of protection considerations that are otherwise not normally experienced. This is naturally compounded by budgetary and trained manpower limitations. Whereas a security assessment for a particular UK national whom experiences an immediate and direct threat action to life occurs and the subsequent resources to implement the necessary safeguards are employed, the threat(s) against MPs are, in the main, of a generic nature based on historical act where the incidence are focused on professional appointment. By virtue of becoming an MP, the individual has become at an elevated risk as a default setting due to the occupational position they have undertaken. The government naturally has a duty of care to ensure that its MPs are sufficiently protected in order that they can go about unhindered, safe and secure in the conduct of their official business. Not as any knee-jerk response to a particular event but as a result of a proper, formalised process of assessment to ensure any measures implemented meet the demands of their work place.
History of Attacks on MPs
It is assessed that those threats against MPs will not diminish but on the contrary increase, certainly in the relative immediate future. This increase could include both number and severity of incidence. As can be seen from the timeline above, the latest two attacks are just 5 years and 6 years apart respectively whereas previously were 10 years apart for each of the previous three attacks. The increase in extremism over recent years is the significant change to the demographic.
Since 1979 there have now been seven fatal attacks on MPs as well as two attempted murders. A survey of UK MPs conducted in 2015 revealed that one in five have been attacked or been subject to an attempted attack while 81 percent had experienced aggressive or intrusive behaviour while in office. This has magnified in recent years. Anyone of an elevated status from the norm in society is susceptible to being a target for trolling, bullying and a state of visceral attack. Politicians, celebrities, sports personalities and generally anyone deemed to be successful in any way will be subjected to a window of public discourse where they are humiliated, belittled, attacked. Indeed, for as I write an updated and extended version to my book on Close Protection, Sir David Amess MP was murdered during a constituency surgery he held where he was attacked and stabbed 17 times by Ali Harbi Ali, a British national of Somali heritage. Although not directly associated with this purpose of this discussion, it raised an on-going issue in Parliament where MPs are subjected to a torrent of abuse and attack. MPs told of their victimisation of being trolled online, of receiving death threats and subjected to a torrent of abuse and attack. A couple of days later, Michael Gove MP was accosted by anti-vaxxers as he walked along the street around Parliament and where the police had to step in to protect him. Labour’s Chris Bryant said a man had been arrested over a threat on his life after the MP for Southend West was killed while meeting constituents in Essex. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab spoke of having received at least three threats on “life and limb” in the previous two years, with the latest being of an acid attack. The reasoning for the personal attacks, the threats, the trolling, will change over time but the process will be sure to continue. Philosophically, it is the state of the world, the mob mentality and the easiest path of resistance to conduct such attacks.
So, should ALL MPs receive Close Protection?
Persons Posing the Threat:
It is impossible to produce a definitive list if persons who are likely to pose a threat to a principal. However, members if the following generic groups of people pose an obvious threat:
- Mentally ill
- Mobs/ dissidents/ demonstrators
The types of threat that can exist can be grouped as follows:
- Close Quarter Assassination (CQA) – Firearm or Knife
- Long range shoot
- Victim Operated Improvised Explosive Device
- Rocket/ Mortar Attack (Direct or indirect)
- Physical Attack
- Threats and intimidation
Although relatively few MPs may actually become victims of an attack, all are potentially vulnerable to the threat posed by terrorists, criminals and those mentally ill. Some may be temproarily at increased risk merely because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; others may be permanently at increased risk as a result of their professional appointment. Terrorist or criminal activity, for example, cannot be completely eradicated. However, by following simple guidelines and slightly modifying behaviour patterns, the risk of an attack against a principal can be significantly reduced. Whilst these modifications may be seen initially as an imposition, with practise, good personal security can be achieved almost subconsciously. The six basic principles of personal security should be applied daily, both during work and leisure activity.
- Be aware
- Be suspicious
- Avoid routine
- Be methodical
- Use initiative & commonsense
- Good communications
Close Protection is designed to supplement personal security, not replace it. CP cannot be effective without personal security since sound personal security measures are germane to all deterrent aspects of CP.
Police Protection Command and Private Sector Collaboration
Due to the nature of requirement, the overall responsibility for the assessment and recommendations process befalls to the Home Office, i.e., Police Protection Command and that any implementation must be overseen, managed, controlled and commanded by those relevant Police agencies.
The main impact to the consideration of the implementation of security measures is the probable unprecedented scale of requirement. With 650 MPs conducting surgeries most Fridays together with various other official engagements throughout the year where the interaction with the general public is presented, the logistical task then becomes clear. The issues surrounding this impact are:
- The limited number of protection qualified officers
- The limited number of firearms qualified officers
- The availability of uniformed police officers at all Forces
- The impact on Forces utilising uniformed manpower for such duties
- The impact on budgets available
It must be a continual consideration that the threat landscape is dynamic and will change according to the changes in security measures. Attackers will consider work around solutions to any mitigating or control measures implemented. The following two questions have been asked to highlight the limitations of the presence of unformed police only.
Would a single uniformed police presence only, meet the demands to mitigate/ control the risk?
- Any uniformed presence will undoubtedly provide as a means for a deterrence. However, the focused, committed attacker, will not be deterred. Extremism does not usually involve in any act that concerns the self-preservation of those committing those acts.
- Any standard uniformed presence is not trained in the Close Protection of a third party. Any attack is not likely in the least to be sufficiently countered.
- An unarmed Police presence is not recommended.
- Unarmed uniformed police presence will not be effective in the mitigation or control of armed attacker(s) and will likely be targeted prior to the attack on the MP.
Would multiple uniformed police presence only meet the demands to mitigate/ control the risk?
- Multiple (2 or more) uniformed police will be better placed to deal. However, aspects concerning their lack of protection training could negate any increase in officer numbers.
- Unarmed uniformed police presence will not be effective in the mitigation or control of armed attacker(s) regardless of number of officers
As can clearly be understood, the threat of a firearm attack cannot be ruled out. Mrs Cox was killed in a brutal shooting and stabbing near to her constituency in Birstall in 2016. She was murdered by right-wing terrorist and white supremacist Thomas Mair on the way to a constituency surgery. If police measures are to be considered to meet both knife and firearm attack then only an armed Police presence will be able to help meet that demand. Consideration to TASER/ CED only armed officers could be feasible but any single uniformed Police presence in any situation, Taser only or lethal firearm or not, is NOT recommended.
It is fair to accurately opine that envisaged the numbers of relevantly protection trained police will be largely insufficient to meet the demands of the requirement in most, if not all constituencies. As a direct result of this main logistical impact on delivery, it is proposed that a joint public and private sector collaboration be considered. This consideration is to be mainly based on former members of the Police and Military protection units who have the same exacting training and experience to be co-located and work in conjunction at the venue. A determination should be made on a case-by-case basis as to how that Police presence is to appear, whether lethal/ Taser armed, unarmed uniformed together with private sector delivery. The ad-hoc and at times sporadic nature of the requirement is very much compatible with the manner in which private sector services are delivered. The facilitation of requirements would be catered through a carefully selected minimum number of commercial stakeholders.
Nomination and selection of personnel for CP tasks in support of HMG
Nomination and selection of personnel to be conducted in two phases. The initial and main requirement is to focus on those in the private sector that are former Police and Military protection course trained.
Phase 1: The tasking of former –
Metropolitan Police Royalty & Specialist Protection (RaSP) [and National Protection course]
Close Protection Unit, Royal Military Police
22SAS (Provision of SAS & SBS operatives who have conducted the SF PS1/ PS2 course)
Phase 2: The tasking of former Police and Military who although were not protection trained in those services, are SIA CP trained who then receive a pre-deployment training package specific to the demands of the requirement.
Doctrine, training and equipment
The approach to doctrine concerning specific tactics, techniques and procedure would be under the direction of the Police. All former Police and Military personnel who are SIA CP trained only, to receive operational specific training.
Airport style scanning conveyor belts, metal detecting hand-held wand building access control measures are not recommended unless in specific circumstances where the same building is continuously used that has staff within. These measures require specially trained manpower in the use of the equipment and where the impact concerning the scale of the requirement is concerned would impact greatly on resources and budgets when they could be better used in Close Protection proactive and reactive drills.
Consideration should be given to the provision and use of body armour vests for the MPs to wear whilst they interact with the public. Such firearm and knife protection provides valuable life-protecting measures as well as additional time to react to any such incident.
Organisation and command of CP in support of HMG
All communications and requirements from HMG, vis-à-vis, the Police would be facilitated through a central hub where those requirements would then be forwarded to the contractor. Command and control of all security assets to under the direction of the Police in its entirety.
The United Kingdom Private Security Industry
The Security Industry Authority (SIA)
The SIA, an independent body reporting to the Home Secretary under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001, was established in 2003 and is the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry in the UK; Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), Cash and Valuables in Transit (CVIT), Door Supervision, Events Security, Key Holding, Private Investigation, Security Consultancy, Security Guarding, Vehicle Immobilisation and Close Protection. Their mission is to regulate the private security industry effectively, to reduce criminality and raise standards. Licensing for people working in private security came into effect across England and Wales on 20 March 2006. Anyone involved in providing contracted Close Protection services requires a licence. This includes employees, managers, supervisors and directors or partners of security companies. In order for an individual to obtain a ‘front line’ license, they need to show they are trained to the SIA level. This involves the attendance of a training course consisting of 139 hours, (2 weeks), of knowledge and skills divided into ‘core competencies’.
Since the introduction of licensing, training standards applied in the private sector are now based specifically around these ‘core-competencies’ stipulated by the SIA. It is the bare minimum that commercial training organisations must comply with and it is deemed by the industry majority insufficient for those in the employ in Close Protection.
SIA Close Protection standards
Discontentment with controversial legislation concerning the Security Industry Authority Close Protection training standards has, for the most part, been an industry wide grievance since the SIA imposed them in 2006. The baseline mean average within the private sector remains unfit for purpose.
This is due to:
- Poor competency components of a CP training candidate
- Poor competency components of a CP training course
- Poor competency components of a CP training provider
- Poor competency components of a CP service provider
This, in turn, is due to the SIA not imposing:
- Any minimum age limits
- Any medical assessment
- Any physical fitness assessment
- Any physical intervention skills
- No reaction to attack
- No unarmed combat
- Any Surveillance Detection
- No counter-surveillance
- No anti-surveillance
- Any driving license requirement
- No tactical driving
- No defensive driving
- No protective mobile skills
Government Protection Unit Standards
UK Government provision of Close Protection trained personnel is conducted through 3 main units:
- The Metropolitan Police Royalty & Specialist Protection (RaSP) [and National Protection course]
- Close Protection Unit, Royal Military Police
- 22SAS (Provision of SAS & SBS operatives who have conducted the SF course)
Government and SIA Private Sector Comparison
The British Police and military are the major players in Close Protection services and provision of specialised ‘in-house’ CP training, both of which have their own standards and training methodologies for the protection of the Royal Family, Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Ambassadors and others both in the UK and within high-risk environments around the world. They are arguably regarded, amongst others, as the world’s leaders in this field. In order to understand the level and difference of standards attained by those serving in the RMP, SAS or Police protection units with those from the civilian/ commercial world and with whom would have only completed a SIA Close Protection course, it is important to understand the typical individual who operates in this specialist area. Every member of a professional protection team from those mentioned units is trained to a standard that is arguably, unsurpassed. Prior to being selected for training, the individual would undoubtedly have had a strong military or police background, more often than not have served in some form of elite military or anti-terrorist/ firearms unit, in itself having completed rigorous selection procedures. They would have undergone stringent physical, medical and mental examinations and in some areas, psychometric testing and evaluation, and, during their training, would have been constantly assessed for proficiency and attitude. As a result, the personnel are motivated, pro-active, diligent, dependable, reliable and resourceful. They would be able to operate as an individual as well as in a tight knit team. They have disciplined characters and would also invariably, be of a mature age. In international Close Protection circles – they are widely respected as experts and the content and standard of personnel involved is arguably the highest in the world today.
Both the content and duration of the 2-week private sector SIA CP course barely skims the surface of HMG CP courses as listed above. It is arguably impossible to form any comparison whatsoever between both public and private sectors’ approach. To highlight as an example; several years ago, as a direct result of financial cut backs and a means to cut costs, the Met Police conducted a feasibility study on the private security industry to determine whether or not they would be capable of assuming the responsibility for the provision of protection to visiting heads of state to the UK. The study very quickly proved that the private industry was not of the calibre or standard to provide as such and so the idea was immediately shelved/ disregarded.
Mobius International recognises that the facilitation of any solution will be both manpower and budget exhaustive. Where MPs wish to continue their official duties, protection measures must ensure that they are safe and secure as much as is feasibly possible and in accordance with those risk assessments. As outlined in Part 1, an MP would be classed a ‘Category 2’;
“A person who is in some danger, directly or by circumstance, and against whom an attack cannot be ruled out.”
Mitigation and control measures regarding the physical protection of each and every single MP must be such that the solution meets the demands of the requirement. If the Police provision is restricted or limited whatsoever in that provision due to available numbers to deploy then the option of a joint public and private collaboration must be considered.
Whatever the security solution to be implemented, it needs to be:
- Effective in meeting the demands of the threat(s) assessed
- Effective in delivery without detrimentally affecting other Police resources
- Responsive in delivery
- Able to accurately mitigate the risk to maximise return on investment
If the Police had sufficiently trained protection officers to facilitate the requirements throughout all 650 MPs constituents, there perhaps would not be a need for this proposal Regardless of whatever solution is decided, it will be manpower intensive. It remains an important consideration then, that the quality of such manpower must meet the demands of the threat(s). A uniformed presence only will not be in that bracket.
Mobius International was formed from the ground up in the provision of former Government Close Protection and Surveillance operatives ONLY.
Director of Operations
Mobius International UK Ltd &
Mobius International Ltd
Mobius International UK Ltd Close Protection Operators/ Bodyguards are all former specialist government protection unit having served as Personal Protection Officers to the British Royal Family, UK Prime Minister and other ministers, British Ambassadors and Senior Military Command Staff together with the provision of protection to specific persons of a targeted threat. In effect, we have re-written the commercial/ private sector approach by the delivery of the highest standards in Close Protection. By solely using former government CP trained operators, our level of service is unsurpassed.