Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the National Crime Squad


  Since its creation in 1998, the issue of police reform has assumed increasing importance to the National Crime Squad. As the organisation's operational effectiveness has developed, certain difficulties have presented themselves in terms of legislative confines, which fail to take account of our unique position in the realm of law enforcement. Such difficulties have inhibited our ability to shape the organisation as we would like in order to ensure that we fulfil our stated objective, "To combat national and international serious and organised crime."

  To that end, the National Crime Squad welcomes the current debate and is broadly supportive of the measures proposed in the Police Reform Bill. Many of the clauses do not apply to our work and we have therefore confined our response to those, which will impact directly on our business.


Clause 15: General duties of police authorities, chief officers and inspectors.

  This relates to assisting the functioning of the Independent Police Complaints Commission established by clause 9. It appears to be the intention that a general duty is placed upon the Director General of the National Crime Squad to provide assistance to other forces and to the IPCC itself in carrying out investigations, irrespective of whether the investigation relates to a member of the NCS. We are concerned by the potential impact this will have on our operational resources and that such investigations will divert attention away from law enforcement.

Clause 33: Police powers for police authority employees

  The National Crime Squad would be assisted greatly by an extension of power to civilian employees. Many of our operations are supported by civilian investigators working in specialised areas such as forensic science, financial investigation and hi-tech crime. The NCS anticipates that the development of the organisation will require an enhanced role for non-police officers in these and other areas. We therefore welcome the proposed extension of their powers in order that we might maximise their skills and afford such employees a greater level of participation in investigations.

  Ultimately, the desired position would be for the NCS, within controlled limits, to be able to grant full police powers to civilians. Future police reform might like to consider granting us the power in certain circumstances to create our own constables. We would draw an analogy with the recruitment strategy of the FBI. They have the power to engage an officer from, for example, the NYPD. However, they are also able to engage those who are not police officers but who posses a high level of expertise in specific areas and grant them full FBI powers. Recruitment of experts has the potential to add great value to our organisation. We would receive highly trained specialists in areas such as surveillance and undercover work, which would more than offset training costs to equip them with the requisite policing skills.

  We appreciate that this constitutes a significant departure from the current recruitment process for police officers. However, we are of the opinion that at present we have a wealth of skill closed off to us as such highly trained individuals are unlikely to pursue a career with the police in view of the present requirements of a two year probationary period. Although we fully accept the need and value of such a training period, it would have to be reassessed in order that these individuals were not removed from their operational remit and that their skill level was maintained.

  In addition, it must be highlighted that the Bill specifically refers to civilians as "police authority" employees to whom the "chief officer" has designated extended powers. Civilians working for the NCS are employed by the NCS Service Authority and any extension of powers would have to be granted by the Director General. At present, it appears that the Bill fails to make such provision.

Clause 56: Ministry of Defence police serving with other forces

  The provision to grant seconded officers the same powers and privileges as a member of the NCS is to be welcomed. However, their very narrow remit of investigation would bring with it an expensive need for training to enable them to work effectively with us.

  In addition, an equally pressing obstacle prevents us from according equal status to seconded officers from Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the Immigration Service. This poses a number of difficulties for joint operations and secondments and is a position, which requires reform.

Clause 65: Police members of NCS

  We welcome the inclusion of this clause. The ability to recruit and retain our own police officers from a wide variety of policing sources will be of enormous benefit to the organisation in terms of operational continuity and cost-effectiveness. In addition, it would allow the NCS to present to officers a realistic career path. At present, many officers are deterred from applying to the NCS, the perception being that a secondment to the NCS means putting your career on hold. Direct recruitment would therefore ensure that we are able to attract and retain the brightest and best officers.

  As an organisation we must ensure that we have a sound framework of policy and procedure in place to support this reform to make certain that direct recruitment is managed effectively. It is therefore unlikely that we would be looking to recruit officers via this route until next year.

  Finally, along with direct recruitment must come an amendment to current disciplinary regulations to give the NCS the ability to impose misconduct procedures against such officers (those who are seconded would still be investigated by their respective force). Without such change it will be impossible for us to implement this clause.

The National Crime Squad

February 2002

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