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Met should explore partnerships for CT tech specialist recruitment

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee has urged the Met to think “innovatively” about attracting specialist staff to CT policing.

The Met should explore partnerships with universities and private-sector technology firms to ensure consistent recruitment of digital specialists into Counter Terror, the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee has said.

It follows concerns being raised over current vacancies and competition with the private sector.

In his 2022 review into London's prepardness for a terror attack, Lord Harris highlighted the changes in the modern job market – with the risk that new recruits no longer see policing as a 30 year career.

“It may be that the police have to look at new ways of retaining and bringing people back into policing if they have perhaps gone away and done something else for a period. It is an area where more effort needs to be made,” he said.

Meanwhile Head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, Commander Richard Smith, has also previously told the Police and Crime Committee that there is a “long-term” challenge to ensure the CT capability has the technical skills that it needs – particularly given that those skills are in high demand across the public and private sector.

The Committee’s subsequent recommendation to work with London universities and private-sector technology firms on secondment programmes is one of a number that have been issued today as part of their Counter Terrorism and Radicalisation report.

Alongside recruitment issues are issues of delays with vetting processes. Commander Smith told the Committee that challenges with vetting have existed “for some time”.

He described it as an “active issue” that the Met are looking at in order to do what they can to reduce vetting times and said that additional resource for specialist vetting would be welcome.

Today’s report said: “The Committee believes it is right that attention is focussed on strengthening the Met’s vetting procedures. It hopes such a focus can also lead to increased resourcing across the vetting system, including into specialist vetting teams, so specialist counter-terror staff can be recruited safely and efficiently.”

CTOC is still on course to be delivered by 2025, with Lord Harris saying last year that the co-location is already "driving synergies and efficiencies". 

However, the report adds further discourse on the 2018 changes to the BCU structure – when the Met replaced its 32 Borough Command Units with 12 Basic Command Units. Each BCU contains a counter-terrorism Protect officer as well as other counter-terrorism functions.

The move has nonetheless been criticised, with Lord Harris’ 2022 review saying that it had “diluted” relationships between local police units and borough leadership teams, while the Casey review said the changes had led to the Met becoming more disconnected from its community.

MOPAC has so far not committed to a review a BCU structures, although it has outlined proposals to appoint a Superintendent into each London borough. Commander Smith has further explained there is ongoing improvement work on information sharing between CT policing, local authorities and BCU commanders.

However, the Committee has added to calls for a wider review on BCUs as a way of ensuring a strong understanding of the current model.

A total of 12 recommendations have been issued today including for MOPAC to agree actions to improve information sharing between agencies when terrorist risk offenders are released into the community, and for the D/Mayor for Policing and Crime to make representations at the London Contest Board that Prevent should continue to be led by “evidence based demand”.

Chair of the Police and Crime Committee, Susan Hall, said: “One-year on from Lord Harris of Haringey’s second major review into London’s preparedness for a terror attack, the Committee is reassured that the Met, London Fire Brigade (LFB) and the London Ambulance Service are working hard to ensure they are ready to respond to any major incident in London.

“However, with both the Met and LFB placed in a form of special measures, and all frontline services facing capacity pressures, it is crucial that all services continue to prioritise this vital work.”

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