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Chronic, persistent problems for ROCUs: report

There is still no clear funding model for ROCUs, complain official inspectors in their latest report, on Regional Organised Crime Units. The inspectors found a lack of co-ordination and central leadership; governance of performance, recruitment and working arrangements with the NCA (National Crime Agency) ‘could all be better’; according to the report.

Suggested is stronger central co-ordination, like the National Counter Terrorism Policing Headquarters. The report points to funding as the single greatest barrier to ROCUs operating efficiently and effectively, a ‘chronic and persistent’ issue, that a previous report raised in 2015, which has not been addressed, the inspectors say. One chief complained to the inspectors that a ROCU did not know what grant it would get for the next year: “You couldn’t run a company not knowing what your budget is.”

The inspectors raise the concern that ROCUs, over ten years old, find it difficult to plan, staff face uncertainty about the tenure of their posts, ROCUs struggle to attract and retain talent based on fixed-term arrangements and they can’t invest effectively in specialist capabilities. This is neither effective nor efficient, the report concludes.

As for staff pay – which as with the police generally most of the ROCUs’ budget goes on – the report said that ROCUs found it difficult to retain staff with specialist skills, particularly in cyber-crime, because policing salaries were not competitive with the private sector; and some ROCUs were co-located with the NCA, and ROCU staff might move to do the same work ‘across the road’ for thousands of pounds more a year in salary.

Yet in its conclusion, the report quotes the Home Secretary describing serious and organised crime that the ROCUs take on – economic crime such as fraud, drug- smuggling across ‘county lines’, human trafficking, modern slavery, and high-level cyber-crime – as the most deadly national security threat faced by the UK. ROCUs work in between county forces and the NCA, for example mapping locally and regionally the estimated 4,500 recognised organised crime groups.

In most regions, ROCUs do not lead the regional response to organised crime, the inspectors found. “They are hampered by funding problems, the lack of a mandate to direct force resources, conflicted leadership and a complex governance structure, which means that they are ultimately answerable to many chief officers and PCCs [police and crime commissioners].”

You can download the 26-page report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) at the Inspectorate website.

As background, England and Wales have nine ROCUs; not including London; for example one covers the five counties of the south west of England from Gloucestershire to Cornwall. The report said that police forces expect the ROCUs to take on the most serious and complex fraud cases. “Typically, these crimes require lengthy expert investigation. The level of investment that ROCUs had made in staffing these teams was inconsistent.”


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