Regional Organised Crime Units should build on their strong foundations

Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs) provide a strong foundation in tackling some of the most serious and organised criminals, but there is more work to do to provide a more consistent, concerted and co-ordinated service to the public, a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has found.

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Regional Organised Crime Units – A review of capability and effectiveness

The ten ROCUs were set up across England and Wales to provide 13 specialist policing capabilities, including undercover policing, and cyber-crime investigation, to help police forces tackle serious and organised crime effectively. This is HMIC’s first full inspection of ROCUs.

Serious and organised crime has the potential to destroy the lives of people and the viability of business and includes human trafficking, drug trafficking, high value fraud, organised theft, burglary or robbery and cyber-crime. It is carried out by groups of people acting collaboratively on an ongoing basis, usually to achieve financial gain, sometimes with the use of serious violence.

HMI Zoë Billingham, who led the inspection, said:

“There is no doubt that ROCUs do extremely important and specialised work and the officers and staff working in them are amongst the most highly skilled and experienced in the police service.

“Whilst most of the work carried out by ROCUs is necessarily out of the public eye, the public need to be reassured that ROCUs are working effectively and efficiently to protect us from some of the most dangerous and serious criminals.

“Our inspection found that ROCUs need to build on their strong foundation to increase regional collaboration and build a greater consistency in the provision of services to the police forces they work for.”

HMIC’s inspection found that ROCUs have evolved in a piecemeal way and continue to develop inconsistently and range from highly ambitious and effective cross-force collaborative units to smaller and less effective units. This inconsistency can compromise effectiveness or duplicate capabilities unnecessarily. As a result, opportunities to build and strengthen a consistent national approach to tackling serious and organised crime are being missed.

It was notable however that the staff and detectives in ROCUs are capable and motivated and generally conduct high quality investigations. Whilst much of their work necessarily takes place outside of public scrutiny, they are beginning to communicate with the public, notably through social media, and this has enabled them to publicise successful operations and offer advice on how best individuals or companies can protect themselves from serious and organised crime.

Additionally the HMIC inspection found:

  • Some ROCUs have not yet implemented all of the 13 specialist capabilities which are the minimum expectation;
  • Some forces have been slow or unwilling to commit fully to the regional provision of specialist capabilities, especially in undercover policing and specialist surveillance;
  • ROCUs need to be more fully integrated with the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the national counter-terrorist policing network; and
  • Whilst ROCUs have a good level of intelligence capability, their capability around new and emerging threats such as child sexual exploitation, cyber-crime, modern slavery and human trafficking is still incomplete.

HMIC makes 11 recommendations for ROCUs, as well as police forces, the NCA and the Home Office, focused on increasing consistency and exploiting capabilities.

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Regional Organised Crime Units – A review of capability and effectiveness


  1. This inspection forms part of HMIC’s Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy (PEEL) annual inspections and the evidence collected has informed the Effectiveness inspection, the results of which will be published in February 2016.
  2. HMIC inspected all 10 ROCUs in April to June of 2015.
  3. The 13 capabilities ROCUs should provide, as identified as part of a ROCU development programme led by the Chief Constable of Derbyshire, can be found at Annex A of the report.
  4. HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
  5. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  6. HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729