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The Met Policy unit which deals with major crimes including cyber threats, homicide, firearms, drugs and armed robbery is facing a recruitment crisis with more than 300 vacancies in its ranks, a report has revealed.
Specialist Crime Command, one of the Met’s busiest units, is struggling to fill posts in a number of key areas because the highly trained officers can get better pay and conditions in the private sector.
The resourcing crisis is particularly keenly felt in the area of financial crime, where specialist investigators and analysts are proving extremely difficult to recruit and retain.
A report from His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) warned that the lack of resources is having an impact on the force’s ability to tackle serious and organised crime.
As well as dealing with murder, robbery, gang crime and modern slavery, specialist crime command, also has responsibility for economic and cybercrime, online and child sexual exploitation.
But the HMICFRS report found the unit was currently operating with 300 staff and officer vacancies. Inspectors also found that almost a fifth of financial investigator posts were unfilled, with one unit operating with eight members of staff when it should have had 50.
The report said: “Some economic crime teams perceived that they were unable to dedicate enough time to serious and organised crime investigations.
“They felt they were expected to support investigations into high-risk missing persons and targeting wanted fugitives; tasks that could be completed by other force personnel such as financial intelligence officers.”
Inspectors found that of the 228 highly skilled analyst posts in the Met, 40 were currently vacant, which was impacting the ability to gather evidence in complex cases.
Commenting on the findings, cyber expert Suid Adeyanju, CEO, RiverSafe said: “Recruiting staff with high levels of security expertise is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations like the Met. The rising threat posed by cyber attacks like ransomware alongside the digital skills shortfall means the pressure is on to rapidly upskill existing employees in order to plug the gap.
“All too often, many organisations lack a coherent strategy around cyber, which means they struggle to embed security at the core of the organisation, ensuring staff are trained in the latest standards of cyber awareness,” said Adeyanju.
The report continued: “Operational staff reported difficulties in securing analytical support to present complex evidence for court. In some cases, investigators attempted to complete this work themselves without requisite expertise.”
The report went on: “The MPS should find a way to increase the number of financial investigators and financial intelligence officers, although we acknowledge the difficulties faced when recruiting and training these specialists.”
Matt Parr, His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, said: “As we highlight in this report, it is particularly difficult for London’s police forces to recruit and retain staff in specialist roles.
“Once staff are competently trained with specialist skill sets, they often realise they can earn better money in the private sector.
“Forces need to think innovatively to keep these skilled staff. They may wish to think about working in collaboration with the private sector to navigate this challenge and find a way to share resources.”
The report also criticised British Transport Police for paying to train and maintain undercover officers when they had not deployed them for two years.
The report said: “We, therefore, assess that the current arrangements don’t represent good value for money for British Transport Police and alternative arrangements should be found.”
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The report recognises that there are several areas in which the Met is both improving and performing successfully in our efforts to disrupt serious organised crime.
“That said, we are far from complacent and we know that there is always more that we can do.”