Plans for an American-style National Crime Agency (NCA) were set out yesterday by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to tackle the estimated 6,000 organised-crime gangs in Britain.
The agency will have the ability to take control of operations involving several police forces to ensure a "co-ordinated response" to crimes being committed in different areas, while Ms May also described how its specialist officers will have more extensive powers than regular PCs.
Replacing the Serious Organised Crime Agency, it will take on the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and include a border-policing command and a cyber-crime unit.
"NCA officers will be able to draw on a wide range of powers, including those of a police constable, immigration or customs powers. This will mean that NCA officers – unlike anybody else – will be able to deploy powers and techniques that go beyond the powers of a police officer."
Chief Constable Jon Murphy, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, backed the changes, but the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, criticised the way the NCA had been set up. "Child-protection experts have resigned, counter-terrorism plans have been publicly slapped down by the Met and the Serious Fraud Office has been put in a state of suspended animation," she said.
"All of this at a time when 12,000 police officers have been cut across the country. The Government is pushing ahead with American-style plans for police and crime commissioners that nobody wants."
Ms May also relented on a salary cap for the head of the agency. It was originally set at £140,000, which would have deterred applicants in being around £30,000 lower than the pay of a senior chief constable.