Ed left Radley in 2004 to study Geography at Leicester University. His plan was to join the Army and then be involved in land management, but life took him in a different direction. Today Ed is one of the Queen’s bodyguards.
On LinkedIn you describe yourself as a ‘Personal Protection and Security Specialist’, what does this entail?
First and foremost, I am a police officer. My specific role is working with the royal family providing protection 24/7. I joined this department in 2019, and I am currently working with the Queen and for obvious reasons there’s a limit to what we can talk about!
Are you at work today?
Yes. I’m at Windsor and I’ve been planning for a visitor – when people come in from other countries they may be given protection depending on who they are and what they do. I’ve plenty of admin to do. There is a lot of sitting around as you are waiting on someone’s private and public diary, but that’s the nature of the job.
When you left school/university was this your intended career plan?
I graduated in 2007, having studied Geography at Leicester university, and the plan was to go to Sandhurst. Ultimately, I wanted to do land management. However, one of my university rugby coaches was a policeman and we did some of our team building days down on his patch. I thought it was an interesting career and went on a few ‘ride a longs’ – you go out in the police car, sitting in the back, and see what it’s like. I got sucked in that way! After university I had a year out. Put in applications simultaneously for both the army and police, the police came back first so I took that. Looking back maybe I should have done Sandhurst first, and then joined the police.
Tell me about the process to become a Police Officer.
When I joined you didn’t need a degree, unlike today. I completed an application form and, once accepted, I had an assessment day. I have dyslexia but thankfully the assessments catered for that, alongside the written exercises there was also role playing, dealing with confrontation and problem solving etc.
Once selected I started a 52-week training programme at the Thames Valley Police Training College in Sulhamstead, just outside Reading. Following that it was a two-year probation as a local bobby on the beat where you are signed off on competencies before becoming a ‘fully-fledged’ police officer.
How did you decide with route of policing to follow?
I started as a normal police officer doing town centre patrols in Reading, driving on blue lights etc. Soon after I joined a Neighbourhood Team – my area was Whitley Wood – our job was to meet the specific needs of that community and engage with the locals. From there I became predominately involved in drug work, going after the drug dealers which included covert operations. Then I joined a Proactive Team which is a lot of plain clothes work, being tasked by local CID to target area such as burglaries, drugs etc. In 2013 the opportunity came to apply for to be a Firearms Response Officer, and after that I worked at Chequers providing protection and at other sites in the Thames Valley area.
I applied to join the Met in 2014 when an opportunity came along to join SCO19 which is the Met’s specialist firearms unit. I thought I’m young, I’m trained to do it, I’ll have a go at that! The work would be more varied than Reading and I was ready for more, so I spent six years in the unit and really enjoyed it.
The idea of close protection has always interested me – everyone wants to be a bodyguard! Though sadly it’s not as glamourous as the films make out. I do go to some lovely places and meet many interesting people. But ultimately, I’m working; it’s definitely not a jolly.
How is your work/life balance?
Clearly, it’s not the type of job when you can clock off at five. My wife is very understanding and good to me, especially when I suddenly cancel family/friend events. People are used to the nature of my work so it’s not too much of a problem. I’m away for a week at a time with my duty week, and then the rest of the month depends on the team you work for and what’s happening in the world.
How does the high-risk nature of the job coexist with family life?
The work of a SCO19 officer is obviously high risk; firearms are either known or suspected to be present at the situation you are dealing with. When I got married and started a family, my life and priorities changed which is why I moved to the close protection work. It’s still high risk but a different kind of world.
What PPE do you have?
Normal police PPE, i.e. a baton, spray and handcuffs. I have covert body armour and clearly now I’m also armed with pistol, a taser and a H&KMP5 (gun).
How much training do you have to do?
A lot! We do tactical training a couple of times a year for nearly a week at a time. We are given a variety of scenarios, from people who have AK47s to dealing with photographers, and everything in between. There are lots of soft skills too, not just shooting! Plus driving courses, enhanced medical training and on top of that we have our standard police training.
You’ve progressed quickly through the different fields of police work, what do you put your success down to?
Yes, I guess have done well, especially getting onto firearms after only four or five years. I think being willing to get involved helped to broaden my policing experience, such as the London riots, and protests. I work hard and get jobs done. Good communication skills are key, with both the public and colleagues. I’ve always done well on my courses too.
Did Radley prepare you in any way for this career?
Not directly. The police was never mentioned as a career path; I know of only one other OR who is in the force. You get a lot of independence at Radley, and I learnt to look after myself. Team sports and learning to get on with other people is always useful. Radley probably set me up well for interviews: answering calming and clearly, the confidence to express my thoughts and views.
What advice would you give to current pupils looking at the police for a potential career?
Gain life experiences, you need to broaden your world away from Radley. Being able to talk and relate to people from a wide background is essential in order to understand where they are coming from.I don’t think there is a set model for a good police office, but you must be able to talk, and equally important, listen. If you can work with kids, then dealing with adults is actually easier: they’re more predictable. Kids always try to push the limits and you learn good negotiation skills – I know from having a three-year old!
You will need a good fitness level and strong mental health. You’re going to see things that I can only describe as a war zone. One of my first days when working on the streets of London I had to deal with people who had been shot, it’s tough, administering first aid – plugging holes. There’s no glory. Sometimes you end up getting punched, tussling on the ground, other days it’s dealing with road traffic accidents, all are stressful situations. If you’re not prepared or able to deal with that, it isn’t the job for you. It can be quite difficult at times but rewarding as well.
You spoke of mental health, when you have witnessed such scenes how do you process that?
I have a good network of friends and colleagues. You do need them around you.
I take it you are very calm person that doesn’t panic easily.
There’s not a lot that shocks me anymore. I have a game face. Irrespective of what I’m feeling I have to make people believe I’m in control, and I’m professional. People automatically look towards a police officer in times of panic.
What’s next for you?
For the foreseeable future I will continue with what I’m doing and see where it leads me. My team is subject to change at any time, so it keeps it fresh, and you never know what’s around the corner. There is so much more to the police than the bobby on the beat. Even in my short career to date you can see there is so much to do, so many different avenues to go down. I’ve clearly gone down the firearms route, but there’s surveillance, investigation, counter terrorism and more.
Finally, can you remember your first day at school?
Daunting! I came in the sixth form, there were a few of us that arrived together which made it easier. My dad used to be the Deputy Chaplain and we lived at Chestnut Avenue, I had the advantage, I knew the site already and some of the teachers. I also remember everyone seemed physically big!
I keep in touch with one or two ORs. Recently I joined Radley Connect to catch up with people socially, and I was meant to go a Radleian dinner but work commitments prevented me going.