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A rare glimpse of security risk management of the UK Prime Minister by Protection Command


On the 7th of July 2015, a memorial service was held at St. Paul's Cathedral, London in remembrance of the victims, rescuers, rescued and all their families who were killed, hurt, injured or suffered as a result of the bombings carried out on 7th July 2005.

In attendance were members of the Royal Family (Prince Andrew and guests), the current UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, the ex UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the previous and current Mayors of London; Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson, respectively (among other high profile people and VIPs).

Clearly this was a high risk event and required first class security risk management at all levels to ensure the safety of the congregation and various high profile attendees.

In a rare occurrence, a relatively large proportion of the security prevalence was televised live on several networks including the BBC and Sky - and for those interested in security/close protection of VIPs, we got an unusual glimpse into the operations of the team who provide armed bodyguard services to the UK Prime Minister and the Royal Family.

This article shows, using screenshots of live BBC TV recordings, how some of the close protection unit operations manifested and were conducted.

Armed close protection

As David Cameron and Boris Johnson are walking down the cathedral aisle to leave the service, we get a view of the man charged with the UK PM's immediate close protection - perfectly positioned at all times to respond to threats. On his left upper lapel is a white badge, used to identify him as a member of the security team. His jacket is open to provide rapid access to the weapon he is concealing beneath it (usually a 5.56mm sub machine pistol - HK MP5k), in this case on his right hand side which is clear from the bulge next to his right forearm.

Communications, positioning and concealed weaponry

Shortly after David Cameron is seen walking away from the main service, the BBC camera scans across the entrance to the cathedral looking outwards. Here, we see three of the armed closed protection team (who among others out of shot) are positioned to provide all round cover and observation. What we do see is one of their communication techniques - a method used by UK Special Forces (SAS) - which is a concealed body-located/ thumb-operated secure radio/SIM communication device, usually operated in the opposite hand usually required by the individual for first-choice weapon handling.

In the first and second images below you can see both team members communicating using the concealed radio devices, whilst maintaining their field of view/ operating position.

Also in the shots above, you can see the men are all wearing suits that are too big/baggy for them - and that is to conceal weapons. Ideally a close protection team member will carry 3 weapons for close, medium and long range firing, depending on the job. The man stood next to the pillar is clearly carrying at least one weapon under his jacket and the man shown in the image below is carrying a weapon concealed under his right trouser leg. He is also using his left hand for rapid communication, while keeping his right hand as close to his main concealed weapon as possible - as Prince Andrew is now in state of high vulnerability. At the same time, the other agent in shot is looking out over his prescribed field of view while others out of shot maintain vigilance in their areas.

As the VIPs come close to the car, another member of the close protection team takes on his role, while the other members adapt their field of view in a pre-rehearsed routine.

Just prior to David Cameron and Boris Johnson leaving St Paul's Cathedral, the close protection team are positioned as below (there are others out of shot on the left):

David and Boris await instruction from the security services before they can move from the top of the steps, while members of the security team are now visibly showing communication equipment (as patent distraction technique) and on high alert.

When the 'all clear' is given, the close protection officer from the first shot rapidly descends the steps in front of Cameron and Johnson - again as distraction.

At this point all members of the team are on high alert placing themselves into well trained positions for the most effective field of view - some providing genuine cover, some as pure eyes and ears on the groud, some as distraction.

Both assets get in the car securely, watched on by a large team of close protection officers of (normally) Protection Command selected from the SAS and armed police officers.

Job done


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