Whilst almost three quarters of the Agency are currently working from home, a number of members still find themselves required to travel and work within offices or buildings linked to NCA activity to ensure that it can continue its critical law enforcement role. An additional, smaller but not insignificant group of officers are required to deploy in public areas albeit on a less frequent nature given the restrictions placed on the wider community.
The NCOA recognises that the National Crime Agency of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must continue to protect us from the threat of serious and organised crime at this time. Whilst our role does not include responding to these particular threats, it does include protecting those who protect the public – our members.
Although we do not interfere with law enforcement activity carried out by the Agency, it is important that we continue to have a degree of general oversight to ensure our members are protected from risk and disease in these unprecedented times. As a minimum, this should mean that risks are identified and managed appropriately with clearly recorded decision making and rationale.
As previously mentioned, we are pragmatic on the issues faced by the Agency with regards to PPE. We recognise the competing demand from those who need it most, particularly the NHS, Emergency services and those involved in daily front line contact with individuals infected by the virus.
Whilst the Agency has struggled to secure and distribute PPE we know that it does now have sufficient supplies to protect staff who may, by virtue of their NCA role, be placed at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 than their peers. It is therefore important for us to understand how the Agency prioritises the distribution and retention of stock and what mechanisms are in place on both a National (NCA) level and local management level, to monitor supplies and ensure equipment is with the right people at the right time.
On the 3rd April, through our continuing engagement with the Agency at this time, I sent a formal letter to COVID-19 Gold Group which has been set up to steer the Agency through this critical period. The purpose of the letter was to raise concerns at the continued yet necessary deployment of our members in public spaces and close physical contact with those detained in the course of investigations. Recognising the critical nature of the issues raised, I received a formal response later that same day which confirmed and secured the assurances that I sought, namely:
- In relation to pre-planned arrests and searches, NCA officers will not be required to deploy without appropriate levels of PPE and that,
- Officers who are routinely tasked to deploy in dynamic situations (i.e. surveillance and Firearms) which may easily develop into un-planned arrests and searches, are equipped to respond with the appropriate PPE should this occur.
These assurances provide confidence that our members who are required to operate in a higher risk environment, can do so with full recognition of the National COVID-19 advice, protecting themselves and their families.
Wherever you are working currently, please accept the thanks of your Trade Union. We fully recognise the additional pressures of working through this crisis whilst responding to the
new and relentless threat to your family and loved ones.
If ever there was a time for NCA officers to be agile in the face of a threat, this is it. Please keep safe – we’re in this together.
Simon Boon – NCOA General Secretary