Specialist Operations

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The Specialist Operations directorate is a unit of the Metropolitan Police Service of London, UK responsible for providing specialist policing capabilities including national security and counter-terrorism operations. The Specialist Operations Directorate is currently led by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu.[1]


At its peak, SO was a group of twenty specialist units, which were formed to give the Metropolitan Police a specialist policing capability. The SO designation was implemented in 1986 as part of Sir Kenneth Newman's restructuring of the Metropolitan Police Service. Most of the units designated SO units were already in existence, many of them as departments of C Division and its branches, and all were presided over by an Assistant Commissioner of Special Operations (ACSO).


Since April 2015[edit]

The Specialist Operations Directorate comprises two Commands.[2]

Protection and security operations[edit]

The Protection Command is led by a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, and is responsible for protective security for high-profile governmental representatives of the United Kingdom or from the diplomatic community. As such it is analogous to the United States Secret Service or the Diplomatic Security Service. The PSO Command comprises three branches:[2][dead link]

  • Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP) provides personal protection for the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, Government ministers, ambassadors, visiting Heads of State and other individuals deemed to be at risk. RaSP also provide armed security at Royal Residences in London, Windsor and Scotland. The Special Escort Group (SEG) is also operated by RaSP.[3]
  • Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP) provides armed protection of embassies, missions and the Parliamentary Estate. They also provide residential protection for high-profile Government ministers and are responsible for access control and security at Downing Street and New Scotland Yard. PaDP was formed in April 2015, with the merger of the Diplomatic Protection Group (SO6) and the Palaces of Westminster Command (SO17).[3]
  • Aviation Policing (SOAP) provides armed policing and security for all passengers and staff travelling through Heathrow and London City Airport.[4] Gatwick, Stansted and Luton are policed by Sussex, Essex and the Bedfordshire Police respectively, as they are not located in the Metropolitan Police District

Counter Terrorism Command[edit]

The Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) is led by a Deputy Assistant Commissioner who is the concurrent National Police Chiefs' Council Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism leading National Counter Terrorism Policing Network.[5] The Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) is responsible for protecting London and the rest of the United Kingdom from the threat of terrorism. The Command operates against the threat of terrorism at a local, national and international level, and supports the National Counter Terrorism Network (the Regional Counter Terrorism Units and the National Police Chiefs' Council). The Command also has the national lead for domestic extremism in support of the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit. The Command also deals with sensitive national security investigations, such as Official Secrets Act enquiries, the investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and politically motivated murders.[5] It was created in 2006 through the merger of the Met's Anti-Terrorist Branch and Special Branch.

Until April 2015[edit]

Protection Command

Until April 2015 Protection Command was split into three units that provide protection for ministers, the royal family, and for foreign embassies, diplomats, and visiting dignitaries:

  • Specialist Protection (SO1) – Provided armed personal protection services for ministers, and public officials at threat from terrorism, including visiting heads of government and other public figures. In April 2015, it was merged with Royalty Protection, to form Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP).
  • Royalty Protection (SO14) – Provided protection of the Monarch and other members of the Royal Family. The OCU is divided into Residential Protection, Personal and Close Protection, and the Special Escort Group (SEG), who provide mobile protection. In April 2015, it was merged with Specialist Protection, to form Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP).
  • Diplomatic Protection Group (SO6) – Provided protection for foreign missions in London, including protecting embassies, and the residences of visiting heads of state, heads of government and ministers. In April 2015, it was merged with the Palace of Westminster Division, to form Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP).

Security Command

Until April 2015, the Security Command consisted of three units that provide protection of Parliament and the two airports within Greater London (Heathrow Airport and London City Airport), and organise security for major events in London.[6]

  • Palace of Westminster Division (SO17) – Was responsible for the protection of the Houses of Parliament, and consisted of a team of 500 people.[7] Officers were unarmed. In April 2015 it was merged with the Diplomatic Protection Group, to form Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection (PaDP).
  • Aviation Security Operational Command Unit (SO18); became Aviation Policing (SOAP).
  • Counter Terrorism Protective Security Command (SO20); remains unchanged.

Counter Terrorism Command

Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) has remained unchanged.

Historical structure[edit]

Due to continual restructuring of the Metropolitan Police, only a few of the original SO units still exist in their original form and still use the SO designation. Where the SO designation has been reassigned to another unit, the units are listed in order

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Home - The Met". content.met.police.uk. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Metropolitan Police Service Executive Structure" (PDF). Metropolitan Police Service. June 2018. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Protection Command". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 29 July 2016.
  4. ^ "Aviation Security". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 27 June 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Counter Terrorism Command". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 25 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Security Command". Metropolitan Police Service. Archived from the original on 12 June 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  7. ^ Harrison, Craig. "Protection Command". Eliteukforces.info. Retrieved 23 March 2017.

External links[edit]