UK Police has only 40 cyber volunteers to help it tackle cyber crimes

The UK Police is in need of at least 12,000 volunteers from the civil society to fight the growing menace of cyber crimes which now account for nearly half of all crimes.

Only 40 out of 13,500 volunteers working for the UK Police are cyber security experts, notes an independent think-tank.

Research by independent think-tank Reform has indicated that the UK police force is woefully short of volunteers who are trained in tackling cyber crimes. The lack of such volunteers is making it increasingly difficult for the police to fight such crimes considering how the growth of the Internet is offering new opportunities for fraudsters, sex offenders, and drug dealers.

"The whole workforce requires better equipment, a better understanding of digital demand and crime-fighting techniques, and new (less-hierarchical) working patterns. Police forces should make better use of secondments, and introduce on-demand cyber-volunteer units to help fight the most sophisticated crime, such as cyber-attacks," the firm said.

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After conducting interviews with over 40 police officers, staff, government officials and experts, Reform released a number of recommendations which it says should be adopted by the UK police to effectively counter cyber crimes.

The recommendations suggest that the police forces must offer more dynamic volunteering opportunities to increase the number of cyber volunteers from 40 to at least 12,000 in the coming days. At the same time, the Home Office must set up a new digital academy to offer cyber security training to as many as 1,700 police officers and staff every year.

Reform also strongly advised that as per Sir Tom Winsor’s 2012 recommendation to introduce a system of compulsory severance for all police officers, under-performing force leaders, and other staff must be made redundant to make way for more efficient ones. Learning apps and offline training should also be imparted to increase the digital understanding of the force.

An annual hackathon-style convention will also help police officers join national bodies and other experts in developing approaches to meeting the new frontline of crime, the firm said.

In terms of funding the force's digital understanding and their upskilling, Reform says that the Home Office should use administrative savings from accelerating the Government's automation agenda to set up a £450 million a year capital grant for the forces.

At the same time, the £175 million Police Transformation Fund should also be used to implement a transformational technology. The government should use the £4.7 billion Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to invest in new policing technology companies as well.

According to Reform, while 52.5% of all crimes in the year to September 2016 were traditional ones, 16.9% of them were cyber-dependent crimes and 30.5% were cyber-enabled crimes.

"There is now a much greater likelihood of you becoming a victim from within your own home, through your computer. The great developments in technology have enabled offenders to behave in different ways. Whether it’s cybercrime, fraud, money laundering or the explosion of child sexual exploitation, there has been a fundamental change," noted Lynne Owens, Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Noting that reforming the force to tackle cyber security challenges isn't optional, Reform stated that Police officers and staff should embrace these changes to build productive and motivated teams capable of protecting citizens
from digital threats. "This is the only way to police an ever-changing world," it added.