Mark Kendrick from Bespoke Driving Solutions invited the audience to participate in a discussion style talk.
Bodyguarding is a licensable activity in the UK but the driving element does not require the licence.
Bodyguards, or Close Protection Officers (CPO) are employed to protect the Royals, politicians and others are looked after by the Met Police. The Royal Military Police (RMP) look after high ranking officers. Others are done by the private sector. In war zones, close protection is often provided by RMP and 22 SAS.
It is up to the CPO to consider the threat when working with a subject:
Threats are categorized.
Cat 1 – Not if, but when
Cat 2 – Medium level, not when but if
Cat 3 – Low level, just driver and CPO
At the time of the talk The Queen is Cat 2 status and the threat is not considered high. Though the Met Police are always mindful of a threat.
There are numerous acronyms and terms in the protection industry e.g.
Principal (the protected person)
PPO – Personal Protection Officer
CPO – Close Protection Officer
Hollywood and reality, of course, are quite different. Police are able to break the law where civilian protection officers are not. Police are armed; civilians are not.
An example of a poor close protection unit was when the first minister of Gibraltar was left stranded on the roadside when their vehicle had a puncture. The main vehicle had no spare and there was no escort vehicle. The escort vehicle would have provided a useful alternative; had there been one present that day.
There are two types of Close Protection Driving:
Soft – low profile, covert drills
Hard – high profile, overt drills
Which is chosen depends on the person and the theatre they are in.
Communications between vehicles is typically via mobile phones. A second mirror is used to maintain observation on the principal at all times.
Evasive anti-ambush driving – three ways of evading an ambush:
When done neatly the drive through, or ramming, does not set off air bags. If the air bags are set off the fuel is also cut off; not a good thing when trying to evade an ambush!
Mark showed some videos of a training exercise with the Drive through and the Reverse direction methods. The reverse ‘J’ turn is best not done with a high centre of gravity vehicle as the vehicle is liable to toppling over – as shown in the video. PG comment - though it did look like it was in the USA so no real harm done to occupants – probably knocked some sense into them!
Skidding – this was a side topic and one that Mark was keen to explore to show off the advances with car technology. The point was, if going into a skid, then he would jam on the brakes hard so that the ABS kicks in. This helps the car slow down so if you do run off the road and hit a tree there is less force; secondly, the ABS helps slow the car down enough so you can hopefully regain control. ESC also plays a part in this. So, don’t be scared to use ABS if you have it.
Once ambush is evaded, there is no point going to the nearest police station, as in the UK, they are often closed! Its better to call 999 and tell them where you are, what speed you are doing and in what vehicle you are travelling.
Recently, there was a documentary on TV showing two CPOs, three vehicles with a high profile Principal. The two CPOs were ex-SAS, but in effect civilians. The documentary showed what not to do as it was full of illegalities!
A few years ago, the then Foreign Secretary was using his Met Police Protection officers as a taxi for his mates when leaving their club. The Chief Superintendent told him no! So, the system is often abused. Celebrities use private CPO firms to show off their profile as do many high net worth individuals.
Mark went onto discuss many more topics and provided the group with a copy of one of his DVD’s as a raffle prize at the next meeting.
This, again, was a very enjoyable session and the audience thanked Mark for his time.