Senior royals ‘are concerned’ as security shake-up sees some of their most trusted police guards moved on
- Members of the Royal Family have been left upset by changes to their security
- A number of royal personal protection officers have been moved on by the Met
Senior royals are up in arms over the removal of some of their most trusted police bodyguards as part of a security shake-up.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cornwall are among members of the family who have expressed ‘concern’ after recently losing some of their most loyal and longstanding personal protection officers.
Even the Queen is understood to have privately expressed her ‘disquiet’ over changes to the way they are protected.
It is understood that a number of family members have been left upset after Scotland Yard instigated a reorganisation of their security arrangements.
The changes are being rolled out by high-flying Metropolitan Police Commander Helen Millichap, who is in charge of Protection Command.
Senior royals are understood to have privately expressed ‘disquiet’ over changes to the way they are protected
She is said to have ‘ruffled feathers’ with her determination to ‘open up’ the ranks of the team of specialist officers who guard VIPs, known as Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP).
One of the most senior female officers at Scotland Yard, Yorkshire-born Cmdr Millichap, who was educated at Bradford Grammar School and Cambridge University, has insisted that long-standing bodyguards – known as personal protection officers (PPOs) – are moved to other roles in order to open up the division and make it less ‘cliquey’. She is said to believe the role should not be seen as a job for life.
But members of the Royal Family, who are guarded 24 hours a day by their protection officers, are understood to be deeply unhappy. And some of them are fighting hard to keep their favourite bodyguards with them in face of huge pressure from the Met.
‘Protection officers occupy very unique positions with MRFs [members of the Royal Family],’ said a source. ‘They are with them 24 hours a day and it understandably takes a long time to build up a good relationship of confidence and trust.
‘Several very well-liked and respected officers have been moved on from their roles, not through any fault of their own.
Members of the Royal Family are guarded 24 hours a day by their protection officers
‘It’s simply because of this desire to shake things up a bit, sometimes for the sake of it, it seems.
‘Everyone is unhappy about it, not least some of the principals [royals]. There been a lot of changes in personnel, they have lost people they liked and valued. Some have made clear that they are really quite upset about it.’
Until 2015 the Royal Family used to be guarded by officers from Scotland Yard’s specialist Royalty and Diplomatic Protection group (SO14). That has now been merged with Specialist Protection (SO1) to create RaSP.
Not only does it provide personal protection for the Royal Family but it also provides officers to guard the Prime Minister and other senior ministers, visiting heads of state and other VIPs.
Retired Chief Superintendent Dai Davies, the former head of royalty protection and an ex-divisional commander at Scotland Yard, acknowledged the ‘unique’ position that royal bodyguards hold.
‘It’s an extremely unique relationship and any Met Commander does need to recognise that,’ he said.
‘In my opinion each officer and each royal must be assessed to ensure there is continuity.
‘There’s actually a partnership between royals and the police, and that needs to be nurtured and maintained.
‘The vast majority [of officers] are fantastic and do the job exceptionally well. It does take a long time to develop their expertise. More often than not they are not just a police officer, but they are also politicians and diplomats.
‘Building up these relationships takes trust and time, and that can’t be lightly dismissed.’
But Mr Davies, who before his retirement from the Met brought in ‘tenure’ – the requirement for officers to move roles after five to seven years – also argued that there was no supplement for ‘instinct’, based on knowledge formed over years.
Scotland Yard has acknowledged the ‘unique’ position that royal bodyguards hold
‘It’s a balance, a delicate one, but I do believe officers need to stay mentally fit and professional and it’s no bad thing, I believe, to switch things up every now and again,’ he said.
‘I wasn’t very popular with the rank and file when I brought it [tenure] in, I have to say. But I do believe there is also a host of benefits to opening up the division.’
The full cost of royal security is kept from the public as Scotland Yard argues it would compromise safety. But it is believed to cost taxpayers well in excess of £125million a year.
Even Prince Andrew, who no longer undertakes any official duties, still has his own round-the-clock protection team.
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