It has been suggested that The Queen is unhappy with changes being made to royal security, following a shake up in the policing force which protects the Royal Family.
The Evening Standard is reporting that Scotland Yard has drastically reorganised the way royal protection is handled: armed protection officers are now supplied from a pool of staff on a rota system. This means that those who protect members of the Royal Family are regularly changing their charges, which include government ministers.
Changes have been made to pay, and the Royalty and Specialist Protection (RaSP) team responsible for close protection of Royals and ministers has been merged with Protection Command.
The number of personal protection officers (PPOs) on The Queen’s security detail has not changed, but it seems Her Majesty is not happy that she will no longer have a regular staff, with whom she can build a relationship. Formerly, the armed officer leading her protection team also had a detailed understanding of the system and the royal household.
A senior source said to the paper: “Her Majesty is not the only one who has expressed concerns. A number of senior officers are not happy either. Personal protection is all about building a relationship with the principal. How on earth is that supposed to happen if the officers are rotated every five minutes with new faces?”
Restructuring began in April 2015, but prior to this, it was SO14 Royalty and Diplomatic Protection departments that protected the Royal Family; each member of the family would be assigned a PPO, who was in charge of their safety around-the-clock, which meant such close relationships could be formed.
These men and women also helped guard royal residences. They are often easy to spot – generally men (although a handful of females work with women of the family) wearing suits and an earpiece, standing within a few feet of the Royal, who scan the crowds as the Royal does a walkabout or carries out their engagement. They can also be seen in the royal fleet of cars.
Princess Anne has particular reason to be close to her officers: back in 1974, an attempt was made to kidnap her as she was being driven back to Buckingham Palace following an evening engagement. Her PPO was shot in the fray, trying to protect his charge, and later awarded the George Cross for his bravery, a personal gift from Her Majesty.
PPOs used to be paid an allowance to compensate them for long and anti-social hours that their job required, whereas those who guarded ministers were only paid overtime. Changes meant the system became the same for both kinds of PPOs, but this has seen the royal protection increase sharply, The Evening Standard reports; some officers, the say, have clocked up overtime that takes their pay to more than £100,000 a year.
In order to combat this, Scotland Yard has been bringing in more officers from mainstream policing teams and training them, rotating these new staff amongst the usual protection officers, many of which have little understanding of the palace.
Buckingham Palace told the Standard: “We never comment on anonymously sourced reports claiming to represent The Queen’s private views. Security is a matter for the police.”
“The changes are causing uneasiness among royalty officers,” the article also says, “many of whom had been with SO14 for years. After some were informed by email that they were “no longer in post”, many threatened to operate under 40-hour week EU guidelines. However, the changes were brought in and many of the old guard have opted for retirement rather than extending their service.”
In ever uncertain times, the news is not reassuring; back in September, a woman broke into Prince George’s school, and the Royal Family are of course targets for terrorism.