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Military intelligence to join detective ranks to beat shortage

Forces could recruit retired MI5 and Army Signals officers for ROCUs to fill vacant posts.
Published - 15/10/2021 By - Chris Smith

Military intelligence officers could be recruited into police forces in a bid to reduce the detective shortage and tackle OCGs.

Police and Crime Commissioners have confirmed there aren’t enough officers to fill vacancies in detective ranks and forces are exploring whether Intelligence Officers who have worked in other Services could be brought in.

They would be tasked as part of Regional Organised Crime Units to target sophisticated gangs involved in people trafficking, drugs and weapons smuggling.

Forces have extended a recruitment drive to hire 1,150 specialist police officers to work in ROCUs until 2024 so it can fill a remaining 850 posts.

The idea being explored is for the College of Policing create a direct entry route which could be open to those who have worked in the armed forces with experience of military intelligence.

This could include former MI5 officers, officers from Army’s Signals regiment, those who served recently in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan plus Navy intelligence officers.

The idea also has got traction as the PCCs for Norfolk and Wiltshire are former Army intelligence officers.

Donna Jones, PCC for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (Con), said there is a “massive national shortage” of specialist investigators at regional level.

Ms Jones, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ (APCC) lead for serious organised crime and victims, said: “We know that serious organised crime gangs now operate in every city and all major towns across the country.

“They no longer operate from warehouses, from back office-type hidden buildings, they are operating in residential streets in every city, and in most of the larger towns across the country.”

The shortage of investigators has been a critical issue for forces since the start of the austerity era.

Retirement has continued to impact on recruitment but other factors are also driving the high level of vacancies.

Officers with the level of skills needed for ROCUs are currently either moving into anti-terrorism roles - to do work such as monitoring the 3,000 people on watch lists - or taking up roles with the National Crime Agency.

The NCA has run two recruitment drives this year and demand for fraud investigators has also created a pull on the ranks.

The third issue in play is the lack of interest from officers to become detectives.

The Police Federation conference earlier this year heard how excessive workloads, stress from dealing with the CPS are deterrents. The lack of time to study for exams and a pay drop if officers move from response work are also putting people off.

That’s created a shortage of investigators and shortened the pool that ROCUs can recruit from.

So recruiting military personnel that are not continuing their commissions is being explored.

Ms Jones said: “People that have come out of military intelligence that are doing redeployment, coming out of the armed forces, they would be the kind of people that – I would imagine – we would be wanting to apply to those jobs within those direct entry positions into the College of Policing.”

Hampshire could benefit directly if the idea to recruit from military ranks takes hold.

Portsmouth is home to the Royal Navy’s main hub, including officers in intelligence roles. Many are from the surrounding area and stay in the county on retirement.

But Hampshire is also dealing with significant activity driven by OCGs and the commercial sea ports within its jurisdiction.

Ms Jones said there are “multiple kidnappings happening across regions on a weekly basis”.

But the initiative could also add to the reasons not to become a detective as the more interesting work would not be allocated to them and their chances of promotion into specialist roles would be diminished.

Ms Jones accepted there was a risk: “For the time to get the people through the food chain up to investigations, it will take too long, and we need the people in the roles doing that work now, because of the level of organised crime that currently exists in the country.”

The APCC’s leader also wanted the public to be more aware of how they are unwittingly contributing to organised crime.

APCC chairman Marc Jones (Con), said forces needed to do more to explain to the public how “our social responsibilities link directly through to us all working to tackle SOC”.

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