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EMSOU: The specialist unit helping rid our streets of drugs, firearms and dangerous criminals

When crimes are committed, they’re usually investigated within force, but sometimes, when it’s really serious, violent or complicated, we draw on the skills and expertise from around the region – this is when the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) steps in.

EMSOU is one of the largest collaborative units in the country, and it’s not just Lincolnshire they help to protect. Made up of around 1,200 police officers and staff, they offer investigative support and specialist capabilities to all five East Midlands police forces; Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.

EMSOU’s expertise spans multiple areas. The Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) gathers intelligence and helps forces make informed decisions on the best ways to disrupt and investigate some of the most serious and organised criminals. Housing an arsenal full of tactics, EMSOU investigates people, drugs and firearm trafficking, cyber-crime, fraud, money laundering and prison corruption and protects societies’ most vulnerable from modern slavery and human trafficking, and county lines.

Last year, members of a drugs gang - who brought up to £2 million-worth of Class A drugs into Lincolnshire over a one-year period - were jailed for more than two-and-a-half centuries. The 25 defendants were involved in moving up to 40kg of cocaine from Sheffield and Essex into Boston, Spalding and Skegness. Half of those prosecuted received jail terms into double figures, with the final tally totalling 265 years.

It’s not just the drugs and firearms they’re after. EMSOU also has a dedicated team of Financial Investigators to make sure criminals don’t have a pot of cash waiting for them when they’re released from prison. Over the past 12 months they’ve seized over £1.6 million in cash. No matter how much time has passed from the original crime being committed, EMSOU won’t let crime pay. At the start of the year a 38-year-old Lincolnshire man was ordered to repay another £122,000. In 2010 a Confiscation Order determined he benefitted more than £150,000 off the back of immigration and fraud offences. At the time, he had the funds to pay back £25,000, but fast-forward 10 years and a revisit found he had the cash to pay off more of his debt. People are usually given three months to pay back their ill-gotten gains, or face jail time.

When someone dies under suspicious circumstances in the East Midlands, their death is investigated by the EMSOU Major Crime Unit. The team also investigates complex cases and other serious crimes taking place across the region. Over the past year (from April 2019 to March 2020) the unit has investigated 44 homicides and sent 24 people to jail for almost 300 years collectively, with plenty more trial dates in the diary.

While we have a Major Crime team based within Lincolnshire Police - as do each of the other four forces - thanks to the regional set-up, officers and staff could end up working on investigations across the whole region. The flexibility of the unit helps to ensure that no one area is overburdened by major investigations. It also means that other EMSOU teams can be called on for technological expertise or help in tracking down a criminal on the run. Not too long ago the Major Crime team called on a Forensic Imaging Officer (FIO) to help them identify the body of a man, as DNA and fingerprints had returned no match. From photographs, the FIO was able to render a tattoo which featured on the unknown man’s arm. He utilised body mapping software, which the team uses to reconstruct injuries for jurors in trials. The realistic result was issued as part of a press release and greatly assisted police in identifying the victim, as the victim’s partner came forward after seeing the appeal. This inquiry is ongoing, with three people currently charged with murder and one with perverting the course of justice.

EMSOU also has a dedicated ‘cold case’ team. The Regional Review Unit looks at unsolved cases to identify areas of good practise and areas for development. Thanks to advances in technology and forensic capabilities, EMSOU has managed to identify and convict murderers and rapists decades after the crimes were committed.

When you hear the word ‘forensics’, what springs to mind? A fibre of clothing or a fingerprint being the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict? A drop of blood at a crime scene helping catch a killer? But what does your digital DNA say about you?

Within the East Midlands, every piece of forensic evidence is managed by EMSOU Forensic Services. Each force also has its own cadre of Crime Scene Investigators who are on hand, day or night, to gather up and preserve vital evidence. The laboratory takes care of all of the ‘wet’ forensics under one roof; from testing DNA, matching fingerprints or footprints, handling exhibits and identifying drug purity. The ‘dry’ forensics – phones, smart TVs, laptops and other digital devices – are also examined by specialists. A person’s digital footprint can also tell us a lot – routines, hobbies, and movements – all important information that could help us crack a case.
The Counter Terrorism Policing East Midlands (CTP EM) unit plays a key role in reducing the risk to the region from acts of terror and extremism, so people can go about their lives freely and with confidence.

Towards the end of last year an inmate, who used makeshift weapons in bids to kill two prison officers and a fellow prisoner, was jailed for life.

CTP EM launched an investigation after the prisoner, originally from Ipswich in Suffolk, attacked a prison officer. Just days earlier he had attacked an inmate and prison officer at HMP Wayland. In a third attack - at HMP Wakefield the following month - he cut the neck of a prison officer with a screw. The 33-year-old was found to be suffering from a psychotic illness at the time, but the jury believed he knew what he was doing and that his actions were legally wrong. He was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder and one count of GBH with intent. He was handed a life sentence for each attempted murder, plus five years for the GBH - all to run concurrently. It will be 13 years before he is eligible for parole.

CTP EM also gathers intelligence and pursues persons of interest, monitors and protects our ports and borders, provides security advice for national infrastructure, hazardous sites and crowded places, and prevents vulnerable people from being radicalised. From April 2019 to March 2020, the unit made 14 arrests across the East Midlands.

Regional Deputy Chief Constable Chris Haward said: “EMSOU is the pre-eminent policing collaboration in the UK tackling organised crime, major crime and terrorism as well as delivering comprehensive forensic services to the region. We provide demonstrable value to the region, protecting people from serious harm or loss and ensuring the East Midlands is able to respond effectively to national threats and emergencies.

“We have an exceptional reputation locally and are often held up nationally as the blueprint for collaboration in the UK. That reputation has been hard earned and is evident today in the outstanding results we achieve every year. Criminals do not stop their activity where one police force ends and another begins. That is why we are strong as a five force collaboration and I will continue to encourage, and to provide a service that goes above and beyond the expectations of the East Midlands forces. It is my privilege to lead such an incredible team and it gives me great pride to see the achievements and results they bring every single day.”

21 May 20 11:43 AM

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