The Protection Command is one of the three Commands within the Specialist Operations directorate of London's Metropolitan Police Service. Within the Command, there are two branches - Specialist Protection and Royalty Protection, which provides protective security to the government/diplomatic community and Royal Family respectively. In contrast with the vast majority of British police officers, many members of the Protection Command routinely carry firearms in the course of their duties and all are Authorised Firearms Officers.
The Specialist Protection Branch (SO1) is responsible for providing specialist protection for the current and former prime ministers, along with other government ministers. They also protect certain ambassadors, visiting dignitaries and other high-profile citizens who are deemed to be under possible assassination or terrorist threat.
Specialist Protection officers may be deployed at short notice, when information has been received that someone may be under threat. The command is also responsible for carrying out security assessments on civilian staff employed by those under protection, along with assessing security risks to the person protected. Specialist Protection officers also offer personal protection advice to people who could benefit from being protected, but who are not deemed to be of such a need that protection from the command is necessary. It has some 230 members.
The Royalty Protection Branch (SO14) provides protection for the Royal Family, both nationally and internationally. The branch has responsibility both for guarding the royal residences within London and those outside the city such as Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Holyrood Palace, policing members of the public on tours of certain royal residences, as well as providing 24-hour uniformed guarding of certain royal buildings. The branch also offers protection for foreign royals visiting the United Kingdom.
As with all police officers of territorial police forces in England & Wales, Metropolitan Police officers have the powers and privileges of a constable throughout England and Wales. However, when assigned to the protection of people or property in Scotland or Northern Ireland, Metropolitan Police officers, uniquely, also have the powers and privileges of a constable of the local territorial police force in the discharge of that duty. It has some 400 members.
Diplomatic Protection Group
The Diplomatic Protection Group (SO6) provides protection for foreign missions in London, including protecting diplomatic staff, embassies, ambassadorial residences, and visiting heads of state, heads of government, and ministers. These officers are easily identified due to the fact that they drive red marked police vehicles, instead of the usual black and silver.
Palace of Westminster Division
The Palace of Westminster Division (SO17) is responsible for the protection of the Houses of Parliament. Its officers are not armed.
In the media
Because of their role in protection of high profile persons, the Protection Command attracts media attention:
- In 1994, an officer from the command shot himself in the leg during target practice.
- In 2000, an officer negligently discharged his weapon aboard the royal train while assigned to protect the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
- In 2003, a Royalty Protection Officer sold the "green book" - the internal phone directory for the royal family - to News International for 1000 pounds in cash
- In 2009, allegations were made in court by the barrister representing a former Royalty Protection officer facing charges of fraud. The allegations suggested that officers had acted inappropriately within Buckingham Palace. None of the allegations was substantiated, the barrister withdrew from the court case prior to its end and the former officer making the allegations was subsequently convicted of fraud.
- In 2011, an officer was suspended, and subsequently dismissed, over allegations that he had an affair with his protectee's wife.
- In 2012, it was reported that Prince Harry's protection whilst abroad in Los Angeles had been "amateurish" as they allowed nude photos of the prince to be taken, with one officer's sole preventative measure being heard to say, "Awww, come on ... no photos."
- In February 2013 an officer was found dead from a gunshot wound in a property on King's Terrace in Camden.
- Australian Federal Police
- Counter Terrorism Command
- Territorial Support Group
- United States Secret Service
- Fixated Threat Assessment Centre
- Special Protection Group(India)
- "Metropolitan Police Service - Specialist Operations". Met.police.uk. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- "Metropolitan Police Force's Firearms Unit". Global-defence.com. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- section 30, Police Act 1996
- section 99, Police Act 1996
- "Gun fired on royal train". BBC News. 2000-06-16. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Howe, Melvyn (2009-07-17). "Royalty protection officer convicted over £3m scam". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-05-22.
- Swaine, Jon (2009-04-22). "Royal Protection Officers 'sat on Queen's throne'". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- Quinn, Ben (2011-11-22). "Alan Johnson's former bodyguard sacked from Met police". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-11-28.
- "Police protection officer died from gun wound in Camden". BBC News. 2013-02-22.