A far cry from the films.
FOR most of us, the idea of a bodyguard is Kevin Costner or the mysterious well-heeled men who are always at the edge of the red carpet.
But the suited-and-booted celebrity appearances are only one part of a bodyguard’s job, as Alan Hamilton from Worksop-based close protection company Greymen Security Solutions, explains.
“There are thorough risk assessments for every job,” he says. “You have to identify the perceived risks and the actual risks and plan accordingly. You see bodyguards on TV following a celebrity from A to B and it looks like they just stand there, but there is a lot of preparation.”
It is not hard to see why Alan and his colleagues at Greymen have to be so careful. The team’s combined clientele have included Bill Clinton, the Dalai Lama, members of the royal family, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Lionel Richie, Katherine Jenkins and the Saudi royal family.
The status of the client, or ‘principle’ as the industry calls them, together with the threat assessment determines the operation’s ‘alert’ level.
Alan says: “There are different levels of risk and it’s about recognising what’s occurring. You have to be dynamic. You have to always keep your mind active, continually scanning around the environment you’re in.”
But, in spite of their celebrity or political status, Alan says most of their clients are gracious and appreciative.
“They’re always grateful to the close protection team and the effort we put into protecting them,” he says.
But, he says, Hollywood’s portrayal of bodyguards, such as Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard could not be further from the truth.
“Hollywood has ruined it for our profession,” says Alan. “On films what we do is portrayed as sexy – some of it is – but the planning and preparation that’s involved is completely overlooked. Brains are more important than brawn.
“We check out the location first, introduce ourselves, run intelligence checks to see whether they have any identifiable enemies and also check all the routes against their schedules and whether there are any ambush points.
“We have to assess the building too – whether it’s a public building or a hotel, for example, and whether they will also have a private room or area to themselves downstairs.
“Sometimes you can be up all night when you have to make amendments to a route or a plan and only get a few hours’ sleep and the principle wakes up all bright-eyed and bushy tailed with no idea of the preparation you’ve been doing.
“You are constantly assessing the situation.”
But the celebrity clientele means that Alan has to remain tight-lipped about the events and some of the other people he and his colleagues have accompanied.
“We have to respect client confidentiality – you never disrespect that. If you repeat conversations you’d be finished in this business,” he says.
Alan is used to the stressful world of close-call security.
He worked as an inspector for Nottinghamshire Police and later became a temporary chief inspector. He was also the force’s lead for drugs and offender management, representing the force at the Association Of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Home Office levels.
Some of the other ‘Grey Men’ were active in anti-terrorist and close protection units during and following the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Alan says: “Certainly the close protection side of the Troubles involved them in the protection of government ministers and high-profile politicians.
“One was the personal bodyguard for three consecutive secretaries of state, John Reid now Lord Reid, Paul Murphy and Peter Hain. That says something about the quality of that protection officer.”
But it was dangerous work. During the Troubles, security staff were under constant threat.
“In situations like that, protection officers are dealing with professional terrorists – they are under constant threat, even when off duty,” says Alan.
But that is not a healthy way to live.
“You can’t be on red alert all the time, you’d burn out,” he says.
“When the protection officers are, themselves, under threat, you just have to be your own bodyguard.”
n Further information can be found at www.greymen.co.uk