CPO, EP or Bodyguard?


CPO, EP, or Bodyguard?

So, You want to join the ranks of the professionals in the private industry, but like most newcomers or clients, you don't know the difference between a CPO (Close Protection Officer), a Bodyguard, or Executive Protection itself. Or maybe you are someone in need of one of these officers to protect you but have no idea what to consider. Never fear, I'll jump into it and save us all some time by trying to explain how I see it.

First off, I really have a hard time trying to explain this to each and every person who inevitably finds out about my line of work. Nothing irritates me more than having to spend the next 10 minutes explaining what a CPO is and why most of us don't like being called a bodyguard. So my natural response by now is just to say "I'm a security guard", trust me, they lose interest really quickly. Also, we do not intend to use our skills to find the friends that owe you money or keep an eye on your grandaughter's boyfriend, unless he is a threat of course. Okay, now that we got that cleared up, this is is the main difference between a bodyguard, a CPO, and EP.


I'll start off with the easiest, and perhaps the most famous one. Made famous by movies all over Hollywood, the notorious black suit that jumps into action within seconds and always on high alert. These gun taunting, bodybuilding, high paid (Myth by the way) bodyguards always shine in stressful situations. But here's the catch, professional bodyguards are actually qualified CPO's acting in the role of a Bodyguard. More on CPO's later.

Staying on topic, a bodyguard can be a really well trained professional, with real background experience. Unfortunately, it can also be some untrained dude with no experience at all advertising himself on Craigslist. Naturally, these guys are respected because of their looks and of course the famous name tag that goes with the job. But truth is, you can possibly drag your big brother for a night out and have him be your personal "bodyguard" and have the same effect in that scenario. While professional bodyguards are actually trained professionals, that try to avoid conflict as much as possible and advise their clients on best practices for their own safety. If your big brother can do that and keep a cool mind, then you might just get lucky a few times. But if you really want the full bang for your buck experience, hire a professional. A one-on-one (one protector on one client) protection detail is more often than not called a bodyguard, but he most definitely takes the responsibility of a whole protection team. From risk-analysis, threat assessments, route planning, venue planning, driving and TL, and on and on. Whilst in a team environment, the CPO assigned to the bodyguard role, focuses primarily on shadowing the client, keeping the team informed, removing the client from danger, and avoiding conflict!

Executive protection:

Okay, this one is really simple, its the complete detail of external, in-house and professional service providers in accordance with the CPO's to provide sufficient and relevant protection to a principal (The client). A number of services can form part of the complete package here, ranging from guarding services, IT professionals, hardware installers, off-site monitoring, and a list of other essential services. These external service providers work with the CPO's to ensure a safe and secure environment for the principal.


Now, these are the cream of the crop type of guys. As I'm sure you know by now, a CPO officer is someone who is properly trained in all aspects of executive protection, from assessing, planning, execution and debriefing the whole protection detail. There are various roles a CPO has to be capable of acting in, and often a professional team would change roles on a constant basis to keep everyone on their feet and in good practice. It would be daunting to try and cram all of the skills, both hard and soft skills, into one post, so I will elaborate on each of them in the future. For now, you need to know that a full-scale protection detail can and most probably will entail all of the following roles to complete:

  • Team leader - A good team needs a skilled leader, the only member besides the bodyguard that makes contact with the client, under normal circumstances.
  • Professional / Tactical driver - Not always one of the team members, if a more professional driver is needed, he can be pulled in for the task.
  • Bodyguard - to move with and communicate with the client
  • Detail members - These guys blend in and form a barrier of brains and muscle to keep possible threats from being able to approach the client
  • Advanced party - These guys will be ahead of the team's movements, making sure everything is safe and in order for the team's arrival.
  • Tactical response team - For when a detail gets attacked or needs other assistance, like, you know, bigger guns and stuff.

So there you have it, short and simple, a bodyguard is a position filled by a CPO in an executive protection detail. A real bodyguard is not an untrained gym buddy, and a real CPO can be the best bodyguard you hire. Next time you need to explain it to someone, just share them this post.