Strict vetting measures to prevent corrupt and second-rate police officers joining the new National Crime Squad are to be introduced, the head of the force revealed yesterday.
Roy Penrose, director-general of the squad, which comes into power in April with a workforce of about 1,700, is concerned that because his new team will be dealing with top-level criminals and offences involving huge sums of money it could act as a honey pot to corrupt officers.
As the current co-ordinator of the regional crime squads, Mr Penrose said that he was aware of former officers offering bribes to serving detectives for help and information and of some forces giving exaggerated recommendations to get rid of incompetent staff. "There are some very ingenious officers and criminals," he warned.
He said that to try to weed out any officers intent on wrong doing he would be using a number of measures, including double checking some references, having a tougher vetting procedure for all recruits, and installing a confidential telephone system to enable officers to inform anonymously on suspected colleagues.
He said that he would be "ruthless" in throwing out any police officers who did not meet the highest of standards.
The problem of corruption was highlighted last year in the case of John Donald, a senior Metropolitan police drugs squad detective seconded to the south-east regional crime squad, who was jailed for 11 years for selling information to criminals.
The National Crime Squad, which has a budget of pounds 95m and is made up of the old regional crime squads, will work alongside the National Criminal Intelligence Service in targeting the country's most senior gangsters.
Mr Penrose said the lack of officers from ethnic backgrounds made it hard to infiltrate some of the criminal gangs, such as Jamaican "yardies", Chinese Triads, Turkish heroin families based in London, and Russian money launderers.
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