Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) have provided a strong foundation for tackling some of the most serious and organised criminals around today, but there’s further work to be done in order to provide a more consistent, concerted and co-ordinated service for members of the public. This is the key finding of a detailed report issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) which represents the end result of HMIC’s first full inspection of ROCUs.
The ten ROCUs were set up across England and Wales to provide 13 specialist policing capabilities, including undercover policing and cyber crime investigation designed to assist police forces in tackling serious and organised crime on a more effective basis.
Serious and organised crime has the potential to destroy lives, not to mention the the viability of businesses and includes human trafficking, drug trafficking, high value fraud, organised theft, burglary or robbery and cyber crime. This form of criminality is carried out by groups of individuals acting collaboratively on an ongoing basis, usually to achieve financial gain and sometimes involving episodes of serious violence.
HMI Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, told Risk UK: “There’s no doubt that ROCUs conduct extremely important and specialised work and that the officers and staff working in them are among the most highly-skilled and experienced in the police service. While most of the work carried out by ROCUs is necessarily out of the public eye, members of the public do need to be reassured that ROCUs are working effectively and efficiently to protect us from some of the most dangerous and serious criminals. Our inspection found that ROCUs need to build on their strong foundation in order to increase regional collaboration and and at the same time develop a greater consistency in the provision of solutions to the police forces whom they serve.”
Evolved in a piecemeal fashion
HMIC’s inspection finds that ROCUs have evolved in a piecemeal way, continue to develop inconsistently and range from highly ambitious and effective cross-force collaborative units to smaller and less effective ones. This inconsistency can compromise effectiveness or duplicate capabilities unnecessarily. As a result, opportunities to build and strengthen a consistent national approach towards tackling serious and organised crime are being missed.
It’s noted that the staff and detectives in ROCUs are capable and motivated and conduct high quality investigations. As stated, while much of their work necessarily takes place outside of public scrutiny, they’re beginning to communicate with members of the public, notably through social media. This has enabled them to publicise successful operations and offer advice on how either individuals or companies can best protect themselves from serious and organised criminality.
Additionally, the HMIC inspection finds that:
*some ROCUs have not yet implemented all of the 13 specialist capabilities which are the minimum expectation
*some police forces have been slow or otherwise unwilling to commit fully to the regional provision of specialist capabilities, particularly in terms of undercover policing and specialist surveillance
*while ROCUs have a good level of intelligence capability, their capabilities around new and emerging threats such as cyber crime, modern slavery and human trafficking are still somewhat incomplete
In its thorough report, entitled: Regional Organised Crime Units: A Review of Capability and Effectiveness, HMIC makes no less than 11 recommendations for ROCUs, as well as police forces, the NCA and the Home Office, each of them focused on increasing consistency and exploiting capabilities.
Response from the NPCC
As HMIC releases its detailed assessment of ROCUs, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) is starting a programme to develop specialist capabilities on a shared basis and, next week, will be holding a Summit designed to work through these issues with all Chief Constables, Police and Crime Commissioners and the Home Secretary.
Chief Constable Mick Creedon, the National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Serious Organised Crime, said: “We agree with HMIC’s assessment that the ROCUs are working effectively and efficiently to protect the public from some of the most dangerous and serious criminals, but additional work does need to be conducted to build a consistent approach for their delivery around the country.”
Creedon continued: “Ensuring that specialist capabilities like the ROCUs as well as armed policing and major crime services are delivered in the most effective way possible and provide best value for money is a priority for the NPCC. Achieving this requires more collaboration and sharing between police forces and national agencies. We do recognise that we need to constantly update our capabilities in order to meet what’s now an increasingly challenging criminal threat.”
In conclusion, Creedon stated: “Working with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, we’ve now embarked on a programme to develop specialist capabilities on a shared basis.”