Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has taken over regional oversight of an East Midlands policing unit graded ‘inadequate’ by a watchdog.
The East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) was formed in 2001 to target serious and violent offences across the region.
It features a collaboration of specially-trained staff from Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire police forces.
However, an inspection last year by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found the unit is not operating as it was set up to do.
The watchdog found the unit is “inadequate at tackling serious and organised offences” due to “distinct differences” in how the five forces tackle crime.
Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry (Con) told a Police and Crime Panel meeting she has since become regional lead commissioner for the unit and has been examining the inspection report.
It found variations in force performance and officers seconded to the unit only following their respective force’s policies and procedures.
It meant supervisors were using different approaches and were not adequately collaborating on major investigations.
The unit was also found to be “overly focused” on traditional serious organised crime threats, mostly tackling drug and gun offences.
Officers and staff told the watchdog this related to a lack of experience, skills and intelligence sources.
The Inspectorate urged for training in less traditional offences – like modern slavery, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking – to be expanded.
These offences are listed as unit priorities but accounted for just 14 investigations carried out by EMSOU in the year to May 31, 2022.
During the same period, 128 operations targeted drug and gun crime.
In the report, HMICFRS said: “We found several concerns in the EMSOU that prevented it from being effective and efficient.
“These concerns are mainly the result of management decisions made in the East Midlands region.”
Other issues included funding, with the unit not adopting a three-year model from the five constabularies.
This brought uncertainty for senior leaders over the long-term funding plan, with resources only coming in one-year packages.
The inspection led to concern from members of Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Panel during its meeting on Monday (March 27).
Christine Goldstraw, the panel’s independent chair, said: “It does raise issues of confidence, issues of value for money and value-added time for releasing secondments onto the unit.
“This is quite a serious inadequate report.”
But Caroline Henry (Con), Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, reassured the panel changes have been enforced at the unit.
Mrs Henry, who took over as the regional lead commissioner for EMSOU after the inspection was published on March 3, said: “It was disappointing and I have dug in and read the report to look at why that happened.
“The three-year financial settlement has now been agreed upon locally.
“We’ve had the first meeting of my East Midlands regional colleagues and I’ve been speaking about how we need to collaborate better.
“To me, this is five forces but it’s one team and criminals don’t respect boundaries. Collaboration is essential.
“I’m happy to invest if it’s going to make a difference. [With] some of the work they do, we wouldn’t have the resources for in-house.”
Despite finding the unit inadequate overall, HMICFRS did say it had been “very successful” in providing support to major investigations.
The watchdog added: “It is important to note that, although this cause for concern contributes significantly to the inadequate grade given to EMSOU, this doesn’t mean all aspects of performance were inadequate.
“In fact, we were impressed with some other areas of operational performance.”
Regional Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Mayo, who oversees the unit, says the inadequate grading is “not a badge we wish to wear”.
However, she said: “We continue to work with our five constituent forces to ensure we nurture the most efficient and effective collaboration in the fight against serious and organised crime.”
And Deputy Chief Constable Steve Cooper, of Nottinghamshire Police, told councillors: “These staff do probably some of the most difficult and tricky jobs that we don’t have the capability of doing in-house.
“We would not be looking to put additional resources into something we didn’t think was value for money.