High Profile Can Be Home Alone (Professional Security Magazine – April 2020 Vol 30/4)

Philip Grindell
Written by Philip Grindell
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Anyone can be harassed or assaulted or trolled, but it’s different for high profile people, says a former Metropolitan Policeman who has set up in consultancy in this specialism – of personal security of celebrities, politicians, and corporate executives.

What Philip Grindell has to say about protection of the high profile poses a challenge to close protection. As Philip puts it simply: “It [CP] won’t solve the problem,” because; some time at the close of each day, the CP team or operative – no matter how hard-working and experienced – will leave the principal alone. The celebrity is there by themselves in their hotel room or home, and they turn to their phone; and there is the online abuse, maybe viciously aimed at them. An athlete or celebrity has to carry on, quite often pretending that they aren’t harmed by online abuse, when maybe they are.

After Jo Cox

Philip is at pain to point out that he is not against CP – indeed, he has trained a number in what ‘red flags’ to watch for, the words and behaviour that may indicate a member of the public may become a threat to a high-profile figure. Rather, he feels that his consultancy can add value to their work. You also come away from talking with Philip Grindell appreciating how important it is to be careful with words. That’s true generally of course, but in the field of protection of an MP, a sportsman, a chief exec or a pop singer, it’s not only a matter of the person’s safety, but of saving possibly unnecessary bother. For as Philip explains, a threat is not the same as intimidation or abuse (physical-verbal or online). Yes, politicians get a heck of a lot of abuse; and some intimidation; but fewer threats. He was called in to set up and run a security team for Parliament after the 2016 murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. A 30-year Met man, he left with the rank of detective inspector and in May 2019 set up as Defuse Global. He’s a member of the Security Institute; and, an industry body that will be a new name to many in the UK, the Californian-based Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. To be exact, its Los Angeles chapter. While very much a US-based body, a sign of its size is its four-day annual conference, in California in August.

British cases

The deluge of online bile – more for women, and some of its misogynistic – is well documented. A 2017 report ‘Signal and Noise’ by the think-tank Demos set out how the ‘noise’ of hostility can be overwhelming. The parliamentary committee on standards in public life in a report in late 2017 set out how intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, and others in public life, has become a threat to the very integrity of public life (and a threat to diversity; why should a woman put herself through it?). The stakes then are high, not only to the personal safety of politicians. Yet Philip Grindell points out – having researched attacks on politicians in the western world this century – that in each British case, Stephen Timms (stabbed in his constituency surgery in east London in 2010), Rosie Cooper (a man was jailed for life in 2019 for plotting to kill the Labour MP), and Nigel Jones (the Lib Dem MP was also attacked in his constituency, and an aide was killed), besides Jo Cox: the victims were never threatened beforehand by the person that attacked them.

Hunters and howlers

To that idea of ‘signal and noise’ – that you have filter the sheer amount of stuff out there, to find what’s meaningful – Philip offers the phrase ‘hunters and howlers’. It maybe what any of us recall from the playground, and makes sense when you attend any big football match – ‘howlers’ are the ones who make the noise, but they rarely pose a threat. If they intended to do what they said, no matter how vividly put and upsetting to the ear, they would do it; and not shout it, or post it online. The ‘hunters’ are the ones that are going to really go after their target; the doers that security people have to watch for.


While high profile people may overlap categories – a footballer or an actor, let’s say, may have charitable causes, or may make political statements, that others may take offence at; or a politician maybe a telly celebrity besides – Philip separates the threat to a politician from a celebrity. A high profile person normally becomes a target because the stalker or harasser has a grievance – with a politician, that could be something they have said. A celebrity, too, might say something publicly that someone takes offence at. Stalking may arise because the stalker has previously had an intimate relationship with the person stalked. Or – and there could be a mental health issue –the stalker decides delusionally that a celebrity might have a relationship with them; or, that their life would be better, if only the celebrity did have a relationship with them. In short, it’s important to understand the motivation of the perpetrator. And, to see any escalation in behavior – from posting on social media to arriving somewhere the celebrity is (as a high profile person may place their schedule in the public domain) and to writing letters. Equally, you can look in correspondence for ‘red flags’ that may show an increased threat.

Any lone worker

To leave Philip a moment, the murder of Jo Cox did prompt, besides soul searching, work on the personal security of parliamentarians – physical, in terms of protection of their home and constituency office perimeter, doors and windows, and alarms; and guidance. Except, as with advice to any lone worker, MP or nurse, problems may arise if the person does not follow it. To return to Philip; he does say that the likelihood of a public figure being attacked is, still, relatively low. “What is high is the psychological and reputation harm caused.” Very few MPs, in any case, have CP. Close protection draws attention to you. “Nothing draws attention to you than more than half a dozen beefy blokes walking down the high street with you.” As some in the CP field will say, Philip suggests that CP may be about keeping someone safe; or, making someone look like a celebrity, as they step out of a limousine at the front of a hotel, to be photographed. The more secure thing to do would be to enter by the back door; it may be that security has to come before a PR campaign. In other words, security of a celebrity may be balanced with other factors, as it is for politicians. If only because they want votes every few years, an MP has to see constituents; and hear them out.

Public transport

Whereas the hugely successful celebrities – you can supply the names – do not need to run a public office or share with the public their diary. Philip says: “And generally speaking a celebrity would be less constrained by finance around how to provide for their security, because politicians are still limited in what they can spend. Most will use trains and Tube, whereas very few celebrities will.” Philip does make a point about his consultancy’s expertise in this specialist area of security – not only in terms of operations (his clients include women in public life, and he is consultant to the Jo Cox Foundation) but what he calls a ‘scientific approach’. It’s intriguing that he says ‘we can forensically analyse risk’, to identify what is a threat and what is not and is just talk, albeit explicit and nasty enough to be upsetting. As Philip points out, if you can’t identify what are the real threats, you may waste resources and probably irritate the client that you are trying to reassure. The uncomfortable truth that Philip airs is that close protection teams will not – certainly did not in history – keep every president or royal safe from an absolutely determined attacker. Hence that need to spot the ‘signals’, whether against a charity chief executive, politician, TV presenter or journalist or athlete; and it may be different for a woman than for a man in the same position.


Britain’s listed properties are being targeted by criminals and most listed property owners feel vulnerable, according to a specialist insurance company and the Listed Property Owners’ Club. A survey by the Club and Gloucester-based insurer Ecclesiastical found at least nine in ten of listed property owners (92pc) say they feel vulnerable to property crime. Theft of contents (96pc), theft or metal (88pc) and anti-social behavior (76pc) are their top three concerns. Then comes arson (68pc), theft of stone (60pc) and graffiti (61pc). The study suggests that three in then (30pc) listed property owners have been a victim of a crime. Of those victims, more than half (52pc) have suffered property contents theft, a third (32pc) anti-social behaviour, while 29pc have had criminal damage. One in five (20pc) have been a victim of vandalism while one in ten (13pc) have had metal stolen or been a victim of graffiti at their property (10pc). Two in five listed property owners (43pc) believe living in a listed building makes them more vulnerable to property crime compared to those living in modern buildings. Having single glazing (62pc), flimsy windows (56pc) and a perception of contents of value (46pc) were the reasons most giving. Planning restrictions can make it hard to do extra work to a listed house. As one owner said: “I’m worried about how easy it is for someone to break into my home because we can’t use effective security due to the listing.” As for police response, of those who reported a crime, a quarter (26pc) said police took a day or more to respond. One in eight (13pc) said police didn’t respond at all.

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