Exclusive: NCA losing cyber-crime officers to Met's Falcon

News by Doug Drinkwater

The much-vaunted National Crime Agency, often described as 'Britain's FBI', has lost several officers to the Met Police's Falcon Squad, as 'bored' investigators look to go more hands-on with cyber-crime cases.

A former police officer with close connections the NCA, has told SCMagazineUK.com that the agency had lost several staff in recent months, with mid-ranking officers in particular viewing their role as too strategic and intelligence-based as well as significantly ‘less hands-on' on cyber-crime cases than in their previous roles. Some of these were thus choosing instead to jump ship and join Met Police's Falcon squad instead, said the source.

Budget cuts may also have played a part in the departures, as well as culture issues, with officers apparently required to sever their Police contract when first joining the National Crime Agency.

The source said that the personnel issues might force NCA to re-evaluate who does the high-end intelligence gathering, and whether this requires the agency to have better relationships with the private sector and academia.

A spokesman for the NCA declined to tell SC how many officers had left, nor their reason for doing so, saying that the agency “wouldn't go into specifics relating to NCA personnel” and “certainly wouldn't discuss other organisations' recruitment”.

The same spokesman added in a further email to SC: “We do continue to see substantial interest in working for the NCCU (the National Cyber Crime Unit) and wider NCA, both among experienced investigators and those from other backgrounds.”

In an online advertisement, the Met Police says that Falcon is the force's “response to fraud and cyber-enabled crime". 

"As a Detective here, you'll help to combat one of the biggest threats to London businesses and individuals," it reads. “Falcon aims to significantly improve the police response to victims and judicial disposals for those criminals operating online.” 

The advert details how teams within Falcon deal with everything from dedicated cheque and plastic crime (tackled by the DCPCU unit) and the supply of equipment needed to create counterfeit documents to identity document fraud prevention, arts and antiques, and more complex or high-volume fraud.

Meanwhile, the NCCU is currently advertising for various roles, including a business support manager, a senior officer for outreach and industry relationships, and G3 manager for people, strategy and delivery. NCA is advertising for G5 investigations and intelligence officers.

Just last month, NCCU head Jamie Saunders confirmed that up-skilling staff on cyber cases was the agency's biggest challenge. 

“There is an issue with capacity overall,” he said at a Reform conference. “A lot of this is about up-skilling just to operate in the digital world." 

The news comes shortly after The Mail on Sunday reported on several senior members leaving the NCA. Head Keith Bristow was among seven members of a 17-strong management board to quit in recent months, while the Mail also revealed that some officers were unhappy at tackling child abuse as priority, as outlined by the Home Secretary controls. The report further detailed that officers couldn't use the internet at their desks, and that NCA's servers 'were in danger of meltdown' after a three-day IT blackout.

Keith Vaz, MP and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said at the time: "This is a cause for great concern because the NCA was created to be Britain's FBI. To see so many people at the very top of this organisation deciding to leave I think is a very serious matter."

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