CHRISTIAN HVIID boasts 14 years’ experience in the field of close protection and security, not to mention an extensive policing background. Here, the leader of G4S’ close protection business in Denmark outlines what characteristics and abilities are needed to underpin an exceptional close protection professional.
Imagine the scenario. The CEO and VIP of a large Japanese technology company is travelling to an overseas country on business and the best close protection officer is hired to keep him safe.
The businessman’s movements are planned meticulously. The journeys from the airport to the hotel, from the hotel to a discreet upmarket restaurant for an important dinner meeting and then back to the hotel are all planned out, as is the journey from the hotel to attend a meeting the next morning. Every site has been scoped out, as has each and every entrance and exit, ‘blind spot’ and all points of potential danger and threat subjected to a risk assessment.
What could possibly go wrong? The reality is that anything could go wrong. On that basis, the close protection officer is trained to make split-second decisions, even when under extreme duress.
The role of the close protection officer is, first and foremost, to know everything about everywhere their client will go. He or she will notice much more than the average person. Every detail, every nuance. When there is a critical and quick decision to be made, the close protection officer will know how to keep the client safe.
The following scenario really did play out. When the VIP’s close protection officer spotted that covert members of two rival gangs were positioned inside the restaurant posing as diners and outside the building in parked cars, the officer needed to ensure the VIP was taken out of the building on a fast footing, without using the front door and putting him in harm’s way.
The close protection officer had already planned a swift exit through the kitchen and knew exactly what to do. No member of the public would have noticed a single thing or known anything about the danger in which they might find themselves embroiled.
The ‘tells’ and signs the close protection officer looks for are all part of the training, making them hyper-aware to anything that’s slightly out of place. They look for the absence of the normal or the presence of the abnormal.
Close protection: it’s not for everyone
When finding and choosing individuals to be close protection officers, the assessment and training process is necessarily rigorous. Only a very small number of individuals pass muster. On average, less than 10% of those who apply for such roles have what it takes to make a success of them.
An example of a test to which a potential close protection officer will be subjected includes a combination of extreme physical stresses and mental agility tests. It could be extreme cold in the form of jumping through an ice hole into a freezing lake and immediately running 5 km carrying a heavy backpack, followed in quick succession by taking a difficult non-verbal problem solving test under significant time pressures.
This kind of scenario assesses an individual’s resilience and endurance to see if they can withstand the strain these different situations place on their decision-making ability and the speed of their reactions.
Close protection officers may have to stand at their post for many hours, or otherwise remain vigilant to every possible threat around them in a crowd. They may have to react quickly on very little sleep in a situation which is changing and unfolding in front of them in a short space of time.
There’s a certain combination of qualities that a close protection officer harbours which most individuals do not. Many close protection officers, for example, have a background in the police, the security services or the Armed Forces. This stands them in very good stead.
Not only does a close protection officer require a high level of physical fitness and a significant amount of stamina, but they must also carry a combination of situational awareness, vigilance and an emotional intelligence to be able to navigate the range of circumstances with which they could be confronted.
Individuals with a high emotional intelligence are able to detect patterns in their environment and interactions with others, allowing them to quickly understand and respond to the emotions of others and anticipate challenges or opportunities. They also tend to have strong ‘gut feelings’ or intuitions, which can be a valuable tool when it comes to decision-making and problem solving.
While a close protection officer must be thorough and plan meticulously, they must also be able to react to the unexpected far more quickly than the average individual.
Rigorous and challenging
G4S in Denmark has designed a rigorous and challenging programme of different training and Continuing Professional Development for close protection professionals. This includes a mandatory and intensive 150-hour residential course covering threat and risk assessment, operational planning, security formations, surveillance awareness, observation, close protection journey management, venue security and the law and legislation related to close protection security.
All close protection officers also go through an advanced driving course, including high speed manoeuvre and close formation driving.
In most developed countries, there are regulatory bodies dictating the minimum amount of training a close protection officer must have undertaken in that jurisdiction in order to hold a licence. At G4S in Denmark, that statutory minimum is exceeded almost three times over.
All of our close protection officers are trained in the self-defence martial art that is Krav Maga. Rather than learning to fight, our close protection officers learn Krav Maga as a highly effective survival system such that they can defend themselves against armed or unarmed attackers with only one objective: to eliminate the threat in the fastest way possible and, importantly, leave the situation alive and unharmed.
This was chosen as the perfect complement to the requirements of a close protection officer. In most countries, close protection officers are not licensed to carry a firearm, but they need to have the skills to know what to do, quickly and effectively, in order to disarm someone who is and extricate themselves from a very dangerous situation with their client unharmed.
Range of threats and challenges
The range of the customers we have – include journalists and broadcasters, high net worth individuals and their families, celebrities, company CEOs and senior executives – on our close protection books means that the number of situations we plan for are very different, with a range of threats and challenges posed.
These include anything from planning and carrying out the protection of journalists and photographers covering a volatile demonstration involving large and potentially hostile crowds through to protecting a celebrity who has received credible threats from a potential stalker. Both require the precision and exacting resolve of our elite close protection officers.
Anders Bo Kristensen, a team leader in G4S’ close protection business in Denmark who has completed the rigorous close protection officer training, explained: “What we learned in our training is that being prepared for every situation is critical. Also, we are only as strong as the weakest link in our team. Teamwork in high pressure situations is essential. The training is really tough, but also tremendously fulfilling and rewarding. Over a 16-day period, we were put through extremely demanding physical and mental agility drills and tests, which most certainly pushed us to our limits.”
Christian Hviid is Leader of the Close Protection Business Unit at G4S (Denmark)