It has just been announced (here on the BBC website) that the first head of the proposed National Crime Agency (NCA) will be Keith Bristow, who is currently Chief Constable of the Warwickshire Police Force. From his photo he looks fresh-faced and optimistic, but a few months of wrestling the Hydra that is the NCA will soon put paid to that. Following the announcement last July of the government’s plans for policing in the 21st century (see here), I have been wondering how it will actually work in practice rather than in a glossy document.
We are promised in the National Crime Agency “a powerful new body of operational crime-fighters”. Oo-er. Will they have laser-guns? (Oh – they will. Sorry I asked.) It will bring together and supersede the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, as well as better connecting the “intelligence, analytical and enforcement capabilities” of the police, customs, border agency and other “criminal justice partners”. Although I understand the economic benefits of all this unification, I am not so sure about the benefits when it comes to expertise and reality. In short – and selfishly – I am worried that money laundering will be demoted. SOCA has done an improving job when it comes to processing and analysing SARs, and has even started to communicate more openly with the regulated sector. Will their staff, who have built up specialised understanding of this rather unusual area of police activity, be allowed to continue doing that, or will they be seconded to other duties when the manpower is needed?
According to the government’s proposals, the focus of the new NCA will be – as the name suggests – national issues, such as organised crime and border control. Personally I find it hard to split policing along these lines – national as opposed to what? International and local? Are we heading towards an American model, with federal issues and state concerns? And most annoying of all: SOCA was so much easier to say than NCA.