Organised crime units

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Departments set-up to tackle the most serious organised crime have provided a strong foundation, but more work must be done to improve them, a report has found.

This is Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) first full inspection of ROCUs.

Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, said: “There is no doubt that ROCUs do extremely important and specialised work and the officers and staff working in them are amongst the most highly skilled and experienced in the police service.

“Whilst most of the work carried out by ROCUs is necessarily out of the public eye, the public 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 to increase regional collaboration and build a greater consistency in the provision of services to the police forces they work for.”

HMIC’s inspection found that ROCUs have evolved in a piecemeal way and continue to develop inconsistently and range from highly ambitious and effective cross-force collaborative units to smaller and less effective units. This inconsistency can compromise effectiveness or duplicate capabilities unnecessarily. As a result, opportunities to build and strengthen a consistent national approach to tackling serious and organised crime are being missed.

It was notable however that the staff and detectives in ROCUs are capable and motivated and generally conduct high quality investigations. Whilst much of their work necessarily takes place outside of public scrutiny, they are beginning to communicate with the public, notably through social media, and this has enabled them to publicise successful operations and offer advice on how best individuals or companies can protect themselves from serious and organised crime.

Additionally the HMIC inspection found:

Some ROCUs have not yet implemented all of the 13 specialist capabilities which are the minimum expectation;

Some forces have been slow or unwilling to commit fully to the regional provision of specialist capabilities, especially in undercover policing and specialist surveillance;

ROCUs need to be more fully integrated with the National Crime Agency and the national counter-terrorist policing network; and

Whilst ROCUs have a good level of intelligence capability, their capability around new and emerging threats such as child sexual exploitation, cyber-crime, modern slavery and human trafficking is still incomplete

HMIC makes 11 recommendations for ROCUs, as well as police forces, the NCA and the Home Office, focused on increasing consistency and exploiting capabilities.