Today, the Home Office announced that plans to review the structure of counter terrorism policing – in particular whether responsibility for CT policing should move from the Counter Terrorism Command within the Metropolitan Police to the National Crime Agency – have been postponed until after the next election, due to the increase in the terrorist threat level to the UK. In a statement, the Home Office said:
The Home Office is committed to exploring the possibility of enhancing these capabilities in the longer term. And improving collaboration between police and agencies working on counter-terrorism and organised crime remains a high priority.
But in light of the recent increase in the terrorist threat level we can confirm there will be no review of counter-terrorism policing during this Parliament
I was involved in developing the original recommendation that the incoming (Coalition) Government explore synergies between counter terrorism and serious organised crime.
The government has spent some time looking at whether there is overlap between these two threats in terms of individuals, groups, methods, co-operation, and financing. There has also been some debate about how effective national command and control for investigations has been in an environment with operationally independent police forces, both for counter terrorism and organised crime. However, the National Crime Agency has the ability to task forces (though this authority has yet to be used, given the good voluntary collaboration that exists with forces), and the police Counter Terrorism Network has developed mechanisms for addressing investigations that cut across force boundaries (in the form of a strengthened National Co-ordinator).
In fact, the original recommendation was actually about capabilities.
The fundamental capabilities needed to identify and investigate terrorist and organised crime threats are similar – surveillance, interception, and so on. Similarly, the tasking of (community) police officers can easily cover both organised crime and counter terrorism – the real issue is how information gathered at that level is managed, to identify risks.
Looking at synergies in this way provides opportunities for value for money, through shared capabilities, shared infrastructure, shared processes and procedures. It should also develop a richer intelligence and investigation picture.
To some extent, this is already happening. Regional counter terrorism units and regional organised crime units are aligned (mostly co-located), and the extension of the remit of the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) to include organised crime is resulting in a real focus on identifying synergies between the two threat areas – leading to co-ordinated Science & Technology and Research and Development programmes across counter terrorism and organised crime, if not the merging of requirements into single programmes.
So, today’s announcement from the Home Office will not actually affect the good working that is already ongoing to identify and exploit the synergies between counter terrorism and organised crime in relation to capabilities.