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CT policing: drawing on the talents of seconded officers and staff

With a national recruitment campaign under way, the Head of Counter Terrorism Policing reveals why he isn’t looking for the usual suspects.

The work of officers tackling the most dangerous offenders active in the UK is closed off to the public and most of policing itself. Awareness of activity comes after a major incident such as the failed bomb attack in Liverpool last year.

But the need for CT officers is increasing as different threats develop. As well as Islamic extremists there is now a significant threat to UK interests that is posed from far-right groups. And the threat is not only physical but virtual with more groups attempting to recruit people online.

In the year ending 31 March 2021, there were 4,915 referrals to Prevent. The most common were cases referred due to concerns regarding Extreme Right-Wing radicalisation (317; 46%), followed by those with a mixed, unstable or unclear ideology (205; 30%) and concerns regarding Islamist radicalisation (154; 22%).

The total number of terrorism plots foiled by Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) and the UK Intelligence Services since March 2017 is 32. Of those 18 related to Islamist extremism, 12 to Extreme Right Wing Terrorism (XRWT) and two to Left, Anarchist or Single Issue Terrorism (LASIT).

To meet demand, a major recruitment campaign is under way that is designed to reach out to people both inside and outside policing who wouldn’t have previously considered applying for roles.

With policing under the spotlight, is this part of the Service diverse and the kind of modern operation it needs to be?

To coincide with the national CT recruitment campaign, Police Oracle has been given exclusive access to officers working on the frontline to halt terrorist activity in the UK.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing insights from specialist officers and staff including a firearms expert, an analyst, an IT lead and a member of the regional team.

Starting the series is Head of Counter Terrorism Policing in the UK, and Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police, Matt Jukes,

Q: How did you get into Counter Terrorism Policing and what’s changed?

MJ: “When I got my first role linked to counter terrorism, in Special Branch, it was a case of knocking on an anonymous door in Police HQ, which opened a fraction, before eventually being let inside. I was 28 years old, and I think the average length of service in the unit was similar. There were really great people in there and I learnt a lot from their experience. However it always felt like a world that was difficult to get an understanding of from the outside, probably quite difficult to get into and where people went in and never came back out.

“I know some colleagues now will smile and say, ‘What’s changed?’ but I really do believe a lot has. CT Policing is not a force in its own right but a partnership between the UK’s forces. That means we can demonstrate an absolute commitment to creating opportunities for a broad and diverse range of colleagues, and we even have a Twitter feed!

“One the real strengths of CT policing is that is draws on the brilliant talents of mostly seconded officers and staff, and can be part of ensuring we keep the links to local policing alive. It is different work, of course but essentially, it is police work; prioritising prevention and protecting the public and when we need to, putting some really dangerous people in prison.”

Q: What kind of roles are there for officers and staff?

MJ: “A career in Counter Terrorism Policing is like no other, there are so many opportunities and a hugely diverse range of roles and positions for both officers and staff.

“Sadly as the last few months have shown, there has never been a more important time to be working in the interests of national security, and to keep people safe.

“As with many specialist areas of policing, there can be preconceived ideas of what to expect, or what roles might be available in CT. We often find people have images of the purely operational element in their minds; our CTSFOs, armed response teams and warrants.

“However, alongside those highly-skilled frontline officers, are a whole range of other roles demanding equal expertise, passion and ability.

“If you are an officer, there are opportunities in units such as our Firearms Threat Centre, where vital work takes place to disrupt extremist access to weapons. Or you could be helping to change the course of someone’s life as a Prevent case officer, safeguarding those vulnerable to online groomers and radicalisation.

“There are both officer and staff roles within highly specialised units, such as our Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, which was the first of its kind in the world set up to tackle extremist and terrorist content online.

“From finance, to project management, to data analysis; there are also essential civilian roles, where you will be part of challenges - and solutions - being played out on a national and international stage.”

Q: What sorts of investigations would an officer typically be involved in?

MJ: “Counter Terrorism Policing is currently working on a record number of over 800 investigations. The majority of these investigations are in partnership with MI5 and focus on a range of activities, including fundraising, radicalising and preparing acts of terrorism.

“Depending on which part of the organisation you work in, you might be investigating highly sophisticated international plots, or lone individuals preparing an attack.

“Whilst we’re a UK network, we have a global reach, so the scope of our investigations can be vast and you could very quickly working with law enforcement from across the world.”

Q: Who are the officers and staff that you’d like to see consider applying?

MJ: “If you join us, you’ll be part of a world-leading Counter Terrorism Policing network. We are always looking for committed and passionate people, with a desire to make a difference.

“What is really important to me, is that we reflect the communities we serve and that we continue to build on our diverse workforce, this creates a fulfilling environment which people enjoy. 

“A lot of serving officers and staff join Counter Terrorism Policing because they’ve always had an interest, or ‘had an eye’ on it, if that is you, then have a proper look and see what we have to offer.

“There are opportunities, whatever stage of your career you might be at, from young in service to more experienced officers; detectives and constables. We’re looking for people who want to learn new things, but also those who want to use their expertise in a different way.” 

Q: BAME officers are under-represented. Their input is vital. What’s your message to them?

MJ: “Under Neil Basu’s leadership, CTP developed an approach to diversity and inclusion, where with real confidence we can talk about our differences as our strengths. In this vital area of policing, we need everyone to feel they can do really well and bring the best of themselves to work. That includes talent and insights from our diverse communities.

“Done right, CT policing plays a huge part in safeguarding those same communities but we should be under no illusions that only applies if trust and confidence in what we are doing is in place.

“In order to be an effective and innovative organisation that people feel positively about, I know I need a diverse team – diverse in background, diverse in thinking - who are willing to challenge and feel they work in place where that is welcomed”.

Q: Is there good career progression?

MJ: “One of the great things about Counter Terrorism Policing is the doors that open up once you join the network. So many officers say to me, ‘I never knew all this was happening’, and that’s why it’s so important that we talk about what roles we have on offer.  

“There can be a reluctance to promote what we do, in part due to sensitive nature of the work, but it’s vital if we’re going to attract people to the network. We have to talk about it more, so people understand what they can actually be part of! 

“If you join us, as well as the fascinating work and great colleagues, there are a range of practical benefits and exciting career pathways, including secondment and development opportunities in different parts of the country.

“Of course we would like the best people to stay within the network, but you don’t have to commit to us forever! Your skills and experience gained with CTP will certainly create opportunities right across policing.”

Q: Is it dangerous? What do I tell the family?

MJ: “If you already work in policing, you will be well aware, and have probably already had difficult conversations with those you love. Every day, thousands of police officers and staff, go to work not knowing what situations they might face, all in the course of their duty to serve the public.

“Being the family or loved one at home isn’t easy, and I always make sure I take every opportunity to recognise their support on behalf of my colleagues. 

“As a senior leadership team, we work really hard to ensure that effective support systems are in place, and that wellbeing is at the heart of our processes and structures. It’s not just a buzzword, it’s essential in what we do.

“Working in Counter Terrorism Policing does mean you’ll have access to secure systems and intelligence, and much of what we do is done on a ‘need to know’ basis. Of course you can tell your partner, wife or husband what you do, and your close family, but you will need to be cautious about sharing anything that could compromise you or the organisation.”

To find out more about careers in CT policing and applying for roles, go HERE 

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