Police chiefs looking to establish “safety net” if access to EU security tools is lost

A new national unit will assist police forces to use alternatives if the UK loses access to current European Union (EU) data sharing and co-operation tools, such as the European Arrest Warrant or Europol systems. The contingency plans, which were agreed upon by all chief constables on 17 September, will see UK law enforcement revert to the use of international police tools through Interpol, bilateral channels and Council of Europe conventions to enable the extradition of suspects, the tracing of missing people and the sharing of intelligence about crime and terrorism.

A small team led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has reviewed the UK’s use of EU instruments and the operational risks posed by their loss and identified alternative non-EU tools and processes for using them. Following approval of the plans at a meeting of all chief constables in London, work will now begin to establish the unit and recruit officers and staff.

It will be staffed by officers and staff from police forces, the NCA and the national Criminal Records Office with a central co-ordination team and a network of regional single points of contacts who will advise and help forces to use alternative mechanisms. Funded by the Home Office and hosted by the Metropolitan Police Service, the unit’s governance will be through the NPCC.

NPCC chair Sara Thornton said: “Existing EU tools allow us to respond quickly and intelligently to crime and terrorism in the UK and the EU. They make us better at protecting the public. The alternatives we are planning to use, where they exist, are without exception slower, more bureaucratic and, ultimately, less effective. The loss of these tools and the limitations of the alternatives will be felt in European countries, too. The UK is one of the biggest contributors of intelligence to Europol systems and leads half of its operational co-ordination meetings. For every one person arrested on a UK-issued European Arrest Warrant, the UK arrests eight people on warrants issued by other Member States.”

Thornton continued: “We have agreed on a model that minimises the risks and makes best use of already pressured police resources. It doesn’t predict a worse case scenario, but it does prepare for it. It’s vital that our operational planning is joined up across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland so we’ll be working closely with Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Our relationship with our European counterparts remains strong and we will continue to work together in the interests of both UK and EU citizens.”

Criminals “don’t respect borders”

Police have agreed that some of the most important instruments are the Schengen Information System II, the European Arrest Warrant, the European Criminal Records Information System, Europol and Eurojust and European Investigation Orders.

The NPCC’s lead for Brexit, namely DAC Richard Martin, observed: “Criminals don’t respect borders. 70% of transient organised crime groups operate in more than three countries. If we and our EU partners were no longer able to use key instruments, we would no longer be able to share real-time alerts for wanted persons, including serious criminals. We would respond less swiftly to alerts for missing people on either side of the Channel, delaying reuniting them with their loved ones. Also, our collective ability to map terrorist and criminal networks across Europe and bring those responsible to justice would be reduced. We remain hopeful that a deal allowing us to maintain these capabilities can be struck.”

Chief constables also signed-off plans to prepare for the possible effects of a no-deal Brexit, including public protest or disorder and possible disruption linked to transport and borders. The plans will see a small team established that will review intelligence, assess threats and consider them against existing plans for civil contingencies, refreshing or developing new plans as required. Plans will then be tested and exercised.

Chief Constable Charlie Hall, the NPCC’s lead for operations, explained: “Our first priority is to gather intelligence and establish a realistic threat assessment that distinguishes real from perceived threats. At this stage, we have no intelligence to suggest there will be an increase in crime or disorder as a result of a Brexit deal or no deal. Like other public bodies, we’re preparing for possible outcomes and, in each case, we’re working with the relevant Government departments to ensure that we’re ready to respond. As you would expect, these plans will need to be dynamic and will change in response to what will undoubtedly be a changing threat assessment.”

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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