Operational concerns

It’s the silly season for news (although with Trump and Brexit, it’s hard to tell the difference) so here’s my contribution.  I was paging through the latest annual report from the National Crime Agency, released on 20 July, and I started reading about their success stories.  Investigations these days – particularly multi-agency, complex ones – are given code-names: Operation This, Operation That.  How do they pick these names, and what do they mean?  Is there a big book of operation names, or does someone just make one up?  And how do you make sure that you don’t choose a name that someone else has already used, perhaps in another police force?

This time round, the NCA report makes reference to Operation Stovewood, Operation Dragonroot, Operation Pallial, Operation Pumpless and Operation Jarra.  Last year, there was also Operation Captura (which makes some sense), and the year before that we had Operation Seventy, Operation Voicer, Operation Massive (modest…) and Operation Return (again, that one I understand).  And it’s not only the NCA that goes in for this: a very quick search of the Beeb news website reveals that the Met Police have been involved in Operations Grange, Sceptre, Falcon, Maxim and Big Wing, while their City of London colleagues enjoyed working on Operations Creative, Archway and Krypton.

If you’re an investigator, can you shed any light on it all?  I remember reading once that the Wombles were named by sticking a pin in a map (Great-Uncle Bulgaria, Orinoco, Tobermory, Madame Cholet – you get the picture).  And if you were going to head up a major money laundering investigation, what would you call it?  Operation Persil?  (Other detergents are available.)

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10 Responses to Operational concerns

  1. Perhaps they could just make lists like they do for hurricanes – boy – girl – boy – girl https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutnames.shtml Presumably the names need to be pointless otherwise they might give the game away.

    • I read recently that they’re thinking of going to all male names for hurricanes, because people don’t take the female storms as seriously – which leads to more deaths. Haven’t they heard that the female of the species is more deadly than the male?

  2. James Barclay says:

    These wacky operational names come I believe from the “Book” an official document maintained by a group of senior police officers, containing a long list of operational names which are circulated to police forces nationaly, so that individual police forces and other law enforcement agencies can be given their operationals code names. I imagine once a name is used its crossed out in the Book. Similar system used by the British military, with their master list of operational names being maintained by the MOD. Look at the recent media interest in “Operation Mincemeat” and the plans put in place during WWII to fool the Gemans into thinking the Allies were going to invaid Greece and not Sicily. Glyndwr Michael becoming and eventually being buried with honors as the fictitious Major William Martin. Original false news at its best. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11887115

    • Fascinating! I wonder why some names are two-word (Big Wing), when there are surely enough nouns (and indeed adjectives) to keep us going to quite some time. When I was a little girl I always thought a fun job would be naming nail varnishes (Tahitian Passion, Purple Haze, etc.) and this could be a grown-up version of that.

      • Gareth Marklew says:

        My grandfather worked for one of the big Northampton shoe companies. Apparently part of his role was thinking up names for lines of shoes. My Mum tells me that most of them came from a copy of Pears ‘Cyclopedia – and that British rivers were his particular favourites!

  3. Andy Coles says:

    There’s a random word generator picked alphabetically. My current case is operation coelacanth try explaining that to banks, investigators, witnesses et al

  4. Gareth Marklew says:

    As Andy says, there are computer programs – in my experience you’ll be given a choice of two or three names and pick the one you like. Different agencies/forces can still end up with the same operation name for different cases ‘though, Very occasionally, someone will sneak in a clever one. I heard once (many years ago), about an investigation into one trade sector which went by the name of Operation Robin – short, allegedly, for Operation Robin’ B******s

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