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.

Are security guards effective?

Are security guards effective?

Now, I am sure we've all heard the term "You get what you pay for" before, and although it could sometimes be used irrationally, for this subject it might just be justifiable. Security guards can be seen almost everywhere you go nowadays. Some look professional, some not so much, some bulky, some lean, but sadly most are ill-trained, badly paid, and under-qualified. You see one of the important aspects of crime prevention on a physical level is discipline, and working 12-hour shifts for 5 days a week, most of it on your feet and stagnant in one position, for years on end, takes a lot of discipline!

What am I blabbering about?

You see, any employee who is constantly underpaid and over-worked tends to turn unhappy and ineffective. In no other work is an unhappy employee a greater risk than in the security field! Imagine yourself making minimum wage on 12-hour shifts, most likely traveling for another hour or two to get back home, train, get updated with the latest teachings and developments in your field, and then trying to find some time for your family. Would you be happy? Would you be willing to jump into the face of danger for a client that never greets you or respects your presence?. I suspect you might say yes, and that you would do whatever it takes to support your family. This is excellent, but, you will not be able to keep this up for long. Especially not for a few years on end. yet, this is the reality these security guards face every day. And for the record, no, I'm not seeking empathy for them either, its just what it is, the truth.

So, then what makes a security guard effective?

Any security guard that aims to be effective should have the following qualities:

  • Should be vigilant
  • Should be properly trained
  • Should keep up with crime trends
  • Should keep a healthy lifestyle
  • Should be presentable
  • Should be disciplined

Normally you would hire a guard/s from a reputable security firm, this noticeably has a big impact on the quality of the guards that might end up on your premises. Unfortunately, you do not have much control over this, but you do get to choose which company to go for. It is the responsibility of the company to have their employees background checked, trained, uniformed, and properly supervised. Though companies will add profit to their services rendered, which is obvious, you should be careful of the pricing itself. Too low and it might be that the company is not paying their employees well enough or might go out of business quite quickly, Too high and it might be the same actually, as these companies tend to have fewer clients, and one or two contractual losses might again bring them to bankruptcy or having to cut corners. The best price will be the average price for services rendered in your area.

How do I choose?

When your satisfied with the risk and effectiveness of security guards and your now looking to hire a security guard/s you should take care to see that a company manages their guards well. Typically, these are good qualities of a good company:

  • Price, not too low, yet not overly expensive
  • Continuously re-trains their employees
  • Do background checks on all employees
  • Treats their employees humanely
  • Not paying their guards minimum wage
  • Offers their employees room for growth
  • If possible, have their guards working less than 12-hour shifts
  • Must have their guards trained in developing action plans for on-site work.

At the end of the day, any company should be able to explain their pricing and how they intend to keep their employees happy and well-trained. If they fail to do that, you might have to switch companies. A supervisor should be available during the hours that services are rendered and in direct contact with your management staff or yourself.


Security guards are just normal human beings trading time for income, to feed their families or whatever they might need to. I always advise my clients to treat the guards with respect and friendliness, you don't need to talk to them, but refrain from making them feel lesser than you! Respect in any form goes both ways, and an ill-treated guard will undoubtedly trade a good pay off for access to your premises. A security guard is not another tool you can use to run errands, wash your vehicle or hold the door just so you could feel special, their focus should be on making sure no one enters your premises illegally or removes equipment without permission.

The effectiveness of security guards evidently can be a 50/50 give or take. Choose them well, manage them well, and treat them properly and you get a great service, anything less than that and you might be running a bigger risk than you think. Also noteworthy is the professionalism of your security guards, they might make or break your client experience. A sloppy guard badly reflects on your company, whereas a friendly, assertive and professionally looking guard will certainly boost client experience!

Anything you might want to add or debate about the effectiveness of security guards, drop a comment below or mail me directly!