We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Investigators: playing the long game with skills and training

The Uplift is having a positive impact on building capacity to deal with serious and organised crime but the model for attracting officers to the regional units who do the work has changed

Trevor Rodenhurst would be described as a career detective. Having joined Hertfordshire Constabulary in 1994 he worked his way from local CID to specialist roles in major crime, intelligence and Counter Terrorism.

Although now back in uniform as a DCC he retains a keen interest in SOC business as the national policing lead for Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs).

The problem for policing is that the career detective model has dated and a different approach is required to build capacity to deal with the increasing workload caused by ‘high harm’ OCGs.

And as deputy chief constable of a force like Bedfordshire he is also at the centre of the clear tension between local force skills needs and the bigger picture at regional and national level.   

Recruiting 20,000 Uplift officers in a short space of time will not “magic up” thousands of trained investigators overnight but the Uplift is having a positive effect on building the capacity required.

A lot of officers joining the ROCUs are recently out of probation/ newer to forces. Historically ROCUs have looked to recruit more experienced detectives but now they are looking at providing more training and experience once in post to newer recruits.

On 31 March 2021 the head count of the nine ROCUs across England and Wales was 1,403 officers and 1,300 staff. It is worth noting that the majority of ROCU staff are operational and include cyber specialists, intelligence operatives and financial investigators -  they are not back office support people which in the main come from forces in the region where the ROCU is situated.

At that point there were “a significant number of vacancies” across all nine ROCUs DCC Rodenhurst told Police Oracle. The rules of engagement as far as any uplift benefit is concerned is that “we needed to close the vacancy factor on those ROCUs “ which meant bringing the headcount up to 1,518 officers before any additional officers counted.

“We can’t be in the place now where you have got to be the most experienced detective to get onto a ROCU. That has changed. Forces couldn’t support that and we don’t need them to,” he adds.

The uplift target was to grow the ROCUs by 300 officers last year but they managed to exceed that with 345 additional staff.

At the same time 68 officers went to the Met  - it doesn’t have a ROCU but operates differently as part of the serious and organised crime network.

All the vacancies from 2021 have now been filled and this year there is an intention to grow ROCU numbers again by 425  - 95 of who will go to the Met.

This will bring total ROCU strength up to 2,128 officers and around 1,500 staff. “We are making good headway on that target with the support of chiefs,” says DCC Rodenhurst.

“That is a sizeable increase in national capability dedicated to fighting serious and organised crime.”

There is an ambition and agreement in principle to grow by as much again next year but that relies on forces being successful in achieving their uplift targets.

 “Obviously we are completely reliant in forces being successful in their uplift. Anything that threatens that would automatically be a risk to that. But it we were able to honour that we would have close to 4,000 operatives working in nine ROCUs,” he says.

This is significant. The National Crime Agency (NCA) has 6,000 people but that includes HR and back office staff. He adds: “It is a genuine step up for policing in terms of its ability to take on serious threats from SOC. It comes at a time when the NCA is pivoting quite rightly to the borders and global threats. This means we shouldn’t go back to the days of the Mind the Gap report” [when the creation of the Serious Organised Crime Agency left an operational void to deal with regional cross border serious crime].

There has also been a three year spending review for SOC capabilities which covers around £25million of spending. This means that all nine ROCUS will be able to connect to a sensitive intelligence network which will enhance their ability to exchange data.

DCC Rodenhurst also says the significant increase in numbers is an opportunity to “influence the culture” within ROCUs with younger people joining.

“When you add in attrition, retirements, promotions and people going back to force there has had to be a complete acceptance among the leadership of the ROCUs that we will have to take in people with much less experience and provide them with the relevant training.”

There are no tenure policies on ROCUS because as DCC Rodenhurst explains “you spend loads of money training people up and then you lose them.” If someone who is high performing and wants to move back into policing on promotion there is an acceptance that they take that experience with them.

“But equally,” he says “some people stay there for a good while because of the return on investment and while the work is challenging you are taking on some of the toughest criminals we face in policing so it’s a great place to work. We work really collaboratively with CT because we are trying to do the same thing and in many cases it is a shared estate under the same commands.”

In bringing in relatively inexperienced officers in terms of SOC and training them up ROCUs are playing the long game. “If someone comes in and they are on a surveillance team but haven’t done a surveillance course and are not an advanced driver that’s quite a lot of time and training required,” he admits. “At the same time they will go on a TI programme. It’s a pipeline and there is going to be a lag in terms of the operational effect. But that is the kind of commitment and investment we need to make.”

He acknowledges that politicians will want to see an immediate “return in terms of outcomes” but he thinks a medium to long term view on getting officers up to operational standard is more realistic.   

“If you look at the last 10 year we have built capability into ROCUs as we have identified new threats from high harm OCGs,” he says. “That’s often found new harms that policing has to deal with. Now for the first time in 10 years we are growing the operational teams that take on that work.”

The issue of attracting good officers from other forces is a bit of political hot potato at the moment following the Met’s decision to offer transferees a one off cash lure of £5K. The national shortage of investigators builds pressure into the whole system.

DCC Rodenhurst is well aware of the tension. “In some cases we will take detectives but what we are not trying to do is exacerbate the pressure that is already on forces’ investigative capability. I am an importer of this because of my national role but I also sit in Bedfordshire where we have less DCs than we need right now. So I am one of the people balancing those tensions. ROCU leadership has accepted that we can’t just take forces’ finite number of DCs. There will always be some that will go but the aim is to bring in people much younger in their service.”   

Leave a Comment
View Comments 1
In Other News
Viewpoint: No, don’t stop the Carnival, but should we?
Detective’s casebook: Rikki Neave
Go back to basics on burglary to re-connect with public, says HMI
More News