Philip Grindell had a long and varied career in the police service in counter terror before setting up a security consultancy, specialising in protection to prominent people, as SJUK discovered
There have been many dramas portrayed on television based, loosely, firmly or otherwise, on real events.
ITV’s recent series The Walk In, starring Stephen Graham as Matthew Collins, was centred around the neo-Nazi plot to kill the West Lancashire Labour MP, Rosie Cooper.
It is fair to say Cooper, who is to resign her seat shortly, has not been happy with how her story has been presented on the small screen.
In an interview, she recently complained she was used as a “marketing tool” for the series.
Televised “drama” or not, what happened to Cooper was very real.
A man called Jack Renshaw, in his early 20s, bought a 19-inch replica Roman sword and boasted his plans to kill Cooper as part of a “white jihad” in 2017.
But Renshaw, who was 23 when he jailed for life three years ago, was betrayed by an undercover agent, Collins, for an anti-racist group before police were alerted.
Frightened of attack
This is where Philip Grindell comes into the picture.
After the murder of MP Jo Cox in 2016, Grindell was the National Counter Terrorism Co-Ordinator based at the Palace of Westminster, home of the Houses of Commons and Lords.
All members and their employees were, understandably, frightened of attack in the aftermath of Cox’s death.
A piece of paper with seven lines of writing was delivered to him via one of Cooper’s parliamentary colleagues, detailing the nature of the threat posed against Cooper.
Based on training and having studied the methodology of terror suspects (based on work by forensic psychologists and psychiatrists around attacks on high profile individuals), he very quickly assessed the threat posed by Renshaw as genuine and credible.
Grindell’s next task was to tell Cooper herself.
He explains: “There had been a 400% increase in the reporting of threats and abuse at Westminster.
“On the evening in question, I got a piece of paper with seven lines which had come via another MP.
“I was able to say it was a genuine threat based on a certain methodology. There were a lot of threats about at the time but based on what we had learnt, you could see it was a genuine threat.
“You’re able to distinguish between someone poses a threat rather than one who is making a lot of noise.”
Needless to say, Cooper’s life changed thereafter with round the clock security required in London and at her northern constituency home.
“My job was around her protection and managing the threat.”
For Grindell, it was the swansong of a long police career and a new one as founder of Defuse Global, a company specialising in and offering advice to prominent people who may need protection.
He says: “I served as a Scotland Yard Detective in the Metropolitan Police Specialist Operations Command for 30 years, during which he was seconded to British Intelligence for two and half years.
Serving in central London, Brixton and Wandsworth, Grindell was drafted into murder squads for eight years, which included the first four Operation Trident murders before Trident was formally created, the Damilola Taylor investigation and many others across London.
He also served on The Child Abuse Command, counterterrorism during the 2005-2007 London bombings.
Grindell was also the Detective Inspector responsible for investigating all robberies, burglaries and gang crime cross Westminster as well as running an undercover drug operation that achieved a 100% prosecution success.
The threat in the immediate future emanates from the far right, Islamic terrorists, environmental extremists and pro-Russian sympathisers.
The former police officer says: “This year has been an interesting for differing reasons.
“The invasion of Ukraine has had a significant impact and from a national security perspective has highlighted that the threat from Russian and pro-Russian sympathisers has not gone away.
“We have seen the most significant public event with the death of Her Majesty the Queen and the influx of world leaders. This was a major counter terror operation…and was a resounding success.
“The steady increase in the threat from the extreme right wing (XRW) continues to grow as demonstrated with the attack on the Dover immigration centre.
“The release of Islamic terrorists such as Anjem Choudary demonstrates that that threat has not gone away, either. More recently, the threat from environmental extremists holding the government to ransom has shown the impact a few determined individuals can have on our national infrastructure, shutting down the M25 and other parts of London.”
But it is those on the extreme right who he fears the most going forward, perhaps stoked by the ongoing issues in the English Channel, where 40,000 migrants have been picked up in small, illegal boats.
He adds: “I predict that the XRW will be a greater threat and more active. The fact we n ow have a person of colour in No 10, compounded by the ongoing cross channel immigration issues will encourage those with XRW views to be more active.
“I think the ongoing eco protests will continue and with that increased pressure on the police to take swifter action.
“The increased economic pressure will have a greater impact on everyday life in the UK, with possible redundancies, repossessions, and other financial challenges. Within the cohort of those affected there will be a high likelihood of grievance fuelled attacks on politicians, and CEOs of Energy and global brands.”
Interestingly, he sees the acquisition by Elon Musk of Twitter as a means by which ‘there may be a greater tolerance from communicated hate’.
“The continued rise from the XRW in an increasingly polarised society compounded by the emergence of the tactics by the eco protest groups funded by wealthy families. The state sponsored threats have increased and will continue to do so.”
Are the present laws governing the security industry robust enough?
Grindell replies: “That is a huge subject and it depends on what is meant. If we mean the laws with licencing of close protection operatives (CPOs) and other such security professionals…I believe we need greater licencing and higher standards. The industry is increasingly becoming a race to the bottom with price being the deciding factor, rather that quality and professionalism.”
Grindell recently spoke to a large audience at the International Security Expo (ISE) where Figen Murray, the mother of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett also gave an address.
She is pressing for Martyn’s Law, devised to strengthen laws governing public venue security. Does Grindell agree with the aims behind the campaign?
He declares: “Yes, 100%. I think one challenge that I will be interested to see ‘operationalised’ is the ownership outside stadiums and venues. How is that going to be ‘policed’ and who by?”
Grindell also believes online misogyny should be made a hate crime.
He declares: “There’s a misunderstanding of how hate crime is enforced now. Hate crime is about increased sentencing, and we have two areas, motivated or aggravated. It is interesting that gender identity is a protected characteristic, but not gender per se. Gender is protected in Employment law and hence I don’t see why it shouldn’t be considered a protected characteristic under criminal law.
“There must be a cultural change. Thirty plus years ago when I joined the police, people would report two men holding hands or kissing in the street and many racially abusive terms were almost accepted. Thankfully, that has now changed, and I hope that we can stop the rise in misogyny so that our mums, sisters, wives, girlfriends, daughters, nieces and so on can all feel safer.”
Defuse: Clients feel safer
As founder of Defuse, Grindell formed a consultancy providing Intelligence and behavioural threat management for prominent people and organisations with security vulnerabilities, unwanted attention, disputes and problematic people.
Says Grindell: “We specialise in countering stalking, harassment, lone actors, hostile former employees and leavers.
“We help our clients feel safer by providing real expertise in reducing the likelihood of them being targeted by criminals, fixated people, and others who seek harm them or their businesses and when they are in crisis helping them to navigate their way out of that.
“We turn intelligence into useable and meaningful information with the use of behavioural science. So…here is some data…what does it mean and how can we use it to prevent us being a victim.”
To assist he called on behavioural threat management used by the US Secret Service and FBI.
“I was fortunate to spend time with the person who actually wrote the research that the methodology is based on, and have been coached by the world’s experts, who still consult for the US government agencies.”