Diplomatic Protection Group
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|Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG)|
Uniquely in the Metropolitan Police, DPG vehicles are red.
|Active||1961 - Present|
|Role||Diplomatic Protection and Law Enforcement|
The Diplomatic Protection Group (DPG) is a Specialist Operations branch of London's Metropolitan Police Service. The unit's main purpose is to provide specialist protection for diplomatic premises in London, such as embassies, high commissions, and consular sections. The group also provides protection and support to members of the Diplomatic Community, as well as members of HM Government.
The Diplomatic Protection Group was formed in the mid-1970s and its purpose was to establish a stand-alone Police Group with primary responsibility for all Diplomatic Premises within Central London and provide peripheral protection to Royalty, Royal Palaces and senior Government figures (at State and Diplomatic Functions, State Visits etc.). The first DPG base opened in Kensington, the second, two months later in Chelsea and a third, a further two months later in Central London (Beak Street). The Group had no connection with local Police Divisions and was a Branch of Scotland Yard titled, 'Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Department' (RDPD). The Group was manned by volunteer uniformed Police Officers drawn from all Divisions of the Metropolitan Police, but there were some 'pressed men'. These 'pressed men' represented those police officers who had provided the diplomatic protection prior to the formation of the Group. . Not all volunteer RDPD officers, at this time, were required to be Authorised Shots (Authorised Firearms Officer).
The Diplomatic Protection Group was radically reformed in 1982 as the Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Group (RDPG) following the ‘Michael Fagan incident’, when outrageously lax security allowed a burglar to enter the Queen’s bedroom whilst she was sleeping. The then Commissioner, Sir David McNee, refused to resign over the incident despite being asked to do so by the Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, but could not wholly avoid the blame. McNee instituted a major security review under Colin Smith, (brought in from Thames Valley Police on promotion to Deputy Assistant Commissioner), and Smith recommended the unification of all Royalty and Diplomatic Protection functions, including all foreign embassies, Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster, and all royal palaces in the UK, placing them under a Scotland Yard command reporting direct to an Assistant Commissioner. It is significant that many of the original officers for this new unit had to be virtually ‘press-ganged’ into the DPG because most officers did not see it as ‘real’ policing and the work could be (quote) 'mind-numbingly boring'. In order to attract volunteers and keep them, the DPG operated a very generous policy in relation to paid overtime which continued for many years until budget cuts precluded the policy.
DPG officers today are all volunteers who are required to pass a strict selection criteria to assess suitability for the role. The majority apply in order to advance their career through gaining experience in a highly specialized position, also to take advantage of perceived opportunities for generous paid overtime not available on their home boroughs, to obtain driving courses which are much prized, and to be trained as Firearms Officers. This latter group of applicants usually have ambitions to move on to other full-time firearms duties with SCO19 at Scotland Yard.
The Diplomatic Protection Group are responsible for providing static security on sensitive premises, such as foreign embassies, high commissions, and other diplomatic premises. The DPG is also responsible for security at 10 Downing Street, Whitehall, New Scotland Yard, and certain private residencies of diplomats, politicians, and some senior military staff. They also have a responsibility of providing static guards to hospitals, if a person is deemed to be under threat, along with the guarding of some high risk prisoners. Over the last few years the command has diversified its responsibilities to provide VPOs (Venue Protection Officers) who are trained in Close Protection techniques and must undergo selection and 3 weeks additional training with both CO19 and SO1 Specialist Protection Command. These Officers bolster existing close protection team numbers for VIPs and diginitaries and the places they visit. In addition to these responsibilities, SO6 also have a Sniper team who must pass selections with both SO6 and CO19 separately before attending and passing the 6 week full National Sniper course to earn the right to wear the 'Crossed Rifles' emblem. They provide support to MPS wide deployments, CO19 requests, and ceremonial events. The Command also has a dedicated counter-reconnaissance team whose work is understandably secretive as it has close ties to the security services. Selection to this unit is tough, as is the SCD11 Advanced level Surveillance course that must be passed to join. On any given operational day, the Command will deploy several ARV's (Armed Response Vehicles) as well as multiple armed response BMW R1200RT(P) motorcycles and armed proactive patrol vehicles in support of both static Officers and calls of assistance from the diplomatic community.
As of 2003[update], the DPG is known to operate 40 fixed posts and guard 160 diplomatic missions. It is also the biggest specialised armed unit within the United Kingdom, with eight hundred police officers.
Due to many of the premises the DPG guard being classed as "high risk" status, officers operationally deployed are routinely armed. The DPG also assist the Firearms Unit, when additional support is needed.
The DPG is negatively known amongst some circles as 'Doors, Posts and Gates' on account of their static site duties. This is however a rapidly evolving command and is moving more towards proactive counter terrorist policing activities.
History and notable incidents
When the Diplomatic Protection Group was formed, it was a branch of a division which policed Westminster, due to most diplomatic premises being within the area. The DPG was created, mainly to replace the Special Patrol Groups duties, which included the protection of premises.
During the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980, Police Constable Trevor Lock was on protection duty. He was taken hostage, along with the embassy staff, and managed to conceal his firearm until the assault by the British Army's Special Air Service, when he then restrained the terrorist leader.
Other incidents where DPG officers have used firearms, include: when PC Peter Slimon GM visited the National Westminster Bank on Kensington High Street on 27 December 1972 to draw money out while on his lunch break, he found that a bank robbery was in progress, fatally wounded one of the robbers, and injured two other robbers. In the same incident, PS Stephen Peet responded, and shot the third robber. PC Gordon McKinnon was authorised to free a hostage in Trafalgar Square, and did so. More recently the Hackney siege and Markham Square incidents have involved SO6 Officers.
DPG officers have provided armed security for The Queen Mother as well as security for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. In addition DPG residential protection officers have provided armed protection to many world leaders during visits to London.
The "Plebgate" (or "Plodgate", "Gategate") scandal in the United Kingdom concerns an altercation between Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, the Government Chief Whip at the time (who later resigned because of the incident), and DPG officers responsible for Downing Street security, which took place on 19 September 2012. It gained notoriety initially for the conduct claimed of Mitchell and again two months later when, subsequent to Mitchell's resignation, CCTV and other evidence was revealed which appeared to call into question some of the evidence against Mitchell.
Leaked police logs, later apparently backed up by eyewitness evidence, suggested that Mitchell had sworn at police officers on duty at Downing Street and called them "plebs" (a pejorative word signifying someone of low social class) when they refused to open the main gate for him as he attempted to leave with his bicycle. Mitchell apologised but denied using the words claimed and in particular calling police officers "plebs". However, finding his position untenable amid the media storm surrounding the incident, he resigned from office a month later.
The story returned to the headlines again in December 2012, when CCTV footage was released to the media which threw into doubt the police version of events and when it was revealed that an email purporting to be from a member of the public, which had backed up the accounts given in the official police log, was actually sent by a serving police officer who had not been present at the scene. The Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident as Operation Alice.
The affair was revisited again in October 2013, after a report from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded three officers had given a false account of a meeting they had with Mitchell at his constituency office in October 2012, and that the findings of a subsequent investigation had been changed at the eleventh hour to recommend no disciplinary action be taken against them. The report prompted both Home Secretary Theresa May and Prime Minister David Cameron to criticise the conduct of the officers involved, with Cameron calling for Mitchell to receive an apology over the incident. The officers subsequently issued a statement in which they apologised for misleading the public. At the Old Bailey, PC Keith Wallis subsequently admitted falsely claiming to have witnessed the incident and was sentenced to twelve months in prison.
Officers from SO6 are highly skilled in operations that they undertake, therefore they must complete training courses on a regular basis. These include:
- Armed Response
- Officer Safety
- Police Advanced Driving|Driving Courses
- Overt Protection
All authorised firearms officers (AFOs) receive full first aid training. This training is specifically aimed at AFOs and includes the treatment of gunshot wounds, and other ballistic injuries as well as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
Police Search Advisor (POLSA)
The DPG uses trained searchers daily at Downing Street and has search responsibilities at prominent addresses and areas throughout Central London. They also supply POLSA officers to major events such as The State Opening of Parliament.
Tactical Firearms Refresher
The DPG is the largest firearms command in Great Britain with over 700-armed officers. Refresher training is carried out regularly, depending on the requirements of the specific role.
Run by instructors from the Firearms Command and DPG, this is a two-day course that consists of theoretical and practical exercises, vehicles stops, containment, searching of buildings and suspects, ballistic first aid, casualty evacuation and post incident procedure.
- U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), the US agency providing security to foreign dignitaries under the rank of head-of-state visiting the US. The Royal family is an example of dignitaries who receive DSS protection in the United States.