Bunhill: Top cops join the trend to privatise

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The Independent Online
THE POLICE spend their careers staying a step ahead of the villains. So it should be no surprise that, when the Government is privatising just about everything in sight, several of the Met's finest are already a step ahead in going private themselves.

Three of the force's most senior former officers in recent years are among the latest recruits to the private eye trade: Sir Peter Imbert himself, who retired as commissioner of the Met earlier this year, has become a consultant to Integrated Security Systems, on top of his non-executive directorship of Securicor. Not to be outdone, former detective superintendent Tony McStravick, until recently commander of the Met's Fraud Squad, is joining Kroll Associates as a consultant. The same firm has also recruited John O'Connor, former commander of the Flying Squad and Regional Crime Squad, as its director of investigations.

Sir Peter says he will be helping ISS clients prepare 'to handle the kinds of crises they face today - anything from armed robbery, through kidnapping, to terrorist activities'.

Jules Kroll, head of the eponymous US-based agency, which has a large office in London, says he expects his duo to contribute 'knowledge of City institutions, and of the investigation and prosecution of fraud'.

Quite what that really entails for all three is a mystery. Provided their roles are confined to giving advice and not opening doors that might otherwise remain shut, no one should mind too much. But the recent recruitments have sparked some tough talking among the normally taciturn private eyes. ISS claims to be muscling in on the mighty Kroll. Not so, say others in the business. The firm only has three executive directors, eight associates and a handful of consultants, compared with Kroll's 250 staff in 11 offices around the globe.

ISS, snaps one Kroll wag, is 'a man and a dog operation'. His own organisation, though, is also on the wrong end of some vicious and unsubstantiated rumours. Problems in America, the stories go, have spilled over to London, causing severe belt-tightening. So deep is the alleged crisis that Kroll is said to have gone, cap in hand, to its bankers.

Rubbish, says my man in the Kroll trenchcoat. 'What we've done is ruffle a few feathers by growing and being up-front about some of the work we've been doing. Quite rightly, they see the recruitment of Tony McStravick and John O'Connell as a rival threat.'

(Photograph omitted)