Mobilisation

Mobilisation

The police service is required to respond to complex policing operations. Some of these may require resources that exceed a force’s own capacity, ie, mutual aid. These types of operations or incidents require people and/or equipment to be coordinated and managed. Mobilisation is the process which supports mutual aid, which can be local, regional or national.

The National Police Coordination Centre (NPoCC) is responsible for the mobilisation of police assets, including crime.

The mobilisation of crime assets can be challenging, particularly when the length of an investigation is not known from the outset.

A lead force will be responsible for resourcing nationally-led crime enquiries. NPoCC should be the initial point of contact for any mobilisation requirements as it can provide advice and national coordination.

Following agreement with the National Crime Operations Coordination Committee, any mobilisation lasting more than eight weeks would normally be classed as a secondment and not mutual aid. Cases will, however, be assessed on an individual basis.

Mobilisation and the Strategic Policing Requirement

Mobilisation is also a key component of the police service’s response to the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR). The SPR highlights the following five threats which have been identified as requiring a national policing response:

  • public disorder
  • civil emergencies
  • organised crime
  • terrorism
  • large-scale cyber incidents.

The National Policing Requirement (NPR) counters these threats through:

  • Capacity and contribution – police and crime commissioners and chief constables should have regard to the planning assumptions and ensure they are able to fulfil their force’s contribution to the national capacity in response to threats, harms and other civil emergencies.
  • Capability – the police service should be capable of meeting the NPR. Consideration should be given to the skills, training and equipment required, ensuring each force’s contribution to the national requirement is effective.
  • Consistency – specialist policing capabilities must be able to deliver an integrated response which is consistent across all police forces and partnership agencies.
  • Connectivity – policing resources need to be connected effectively across force boundaries through national arrangements. Policing capabilities should also be able to connect effectively with key partners when planning for, and responding to, civil emergencies.

This APP presents key principles and an overarching framework for mobilisation which will help the police service fulfil the NPR and meet other policing challenges which require mutual aid.

As the police service response to the NPR evolves, additional information on discipline-specific mobilisation considerations relating to, for example, public order, civil emergencies and criminal investigation may be added to this APP.

Key principles

  • The Police Act 1996 provides the legal basis for mobilisation, in particular:
    • section 24 – allows forces in England and Wales to provide aid to each other
    • section 26 – enables forces in England and Wales to provide international assistance
    • section 98 – allows forces in England and Wales to provide aid to Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland
    • section 98(4) – provides for the home secretary to direct chief constables to provide resources in extremis (note: to date this intervention has never been required).
  • Mobilisation may occur in response to spontaneous or pre-planned events.
  • Mobilisation is based on a tiered response. In the context of mobilising people and/or equipment, these tiers are:
    • tier 3 – national level
    • tier 2 – regional level
    • tier 1 – local level.
  • Each tier has its own key roles, structures and processes which facilitate effective mobilisation. See mobilisation landscape.
  • The requirement to mobilise can be activated by any of the three tiers.
  • Mobilisation can include non-Home Office forces, eg, in the event of tier 3 mobilisation. Non-Home Office forces do not, however, form part of the tier 2 regional structure.
  • A force which requests mutual aid is referred to as the ‘host’ force.
  • A force which supplies mutual aid is referred to as the ‘donor’ force.
  • Mercury is the IT web-based system used for mobilising resources. Trained designated users within NPoCC and all forces have access to the system. See Mercury for further information on when it should be used.
  • NPCC (2017) National Police Guidelines on Charging for Police Services: Mutual Aid Cost Recovery provides the framework for charging and cost recovery when mobilisation occurs. These guidelines are reviewed annually and all stakeholders informed of any revisions.

Mobilisation landscape

This section provides information on the structures and responsibilities associated with national, regional and local mobilisation. It also explains the processes for activating mobilisation. Planning, preparing and responding to mobilisation underpin all three tiers.

National (tier 3)

NPoCC is responsible for mobilisation at a national level. To achieve this, NPoCC:

  • assesses national capacity and contribution in relation to the SPR and NPR
  • establishes and coordinates continuous testing and exercising regimes to ensure effective capability and mobilisation of national assets when required
  • facilitates mutual aid in a steady state and provides a fit-for-purpose coordination facility in times of crisis
  • ensures effective reporting mechanisms with the Home Office and central government crisis management structures.

NPoCC operates a 24/7 service. In addition, it has the capacity and capability to scale up for significant operational mobilisation demand when required (but still maintains unit business continuity). Under these circumstances, NPoCC will declare activation of operational status.

NPoCC works with other national coordination centres which have responsibility for mobilising specialist resources. These include, for example, the Counter Terrorism Coordination Centre (CTCC) and the Police National CBRN Centre. It also liaises with the Scottish Police Information and Coordination Centre (SPICC). SPICC is responsible for coordinating and managing the mobilisation of Police Scotland resources for events where cross-border mutual aid is required. When mobilisation involves the PSNI and/or Police Scotland, NPoCC will ensure that the host force has the necessary memorandum of understanding (MoU) and legal framework in place to support variations across officers’ police terms and conditions. Devolved administrations, eg, the Northern Ireland Office, will liaise with central government to support these arrangements.

To maintain a national overview of service capacity/capability and inform resource management based on threat and risk considerations, NPoCC undertakes horizon scanning with forces and regions. In addition, NPoCC:

  • liaises with national policing areas (eg, to develop and maintain role profiles, undertake specialist skill capacity assessments)
  • develops and disseminates shared good practice (eg, outcomes of the mobilisation review group and as a result of post-event debriefing)
  • manages the Mercury system.

NPoCC is also responsible for ensuring national mobilisation situational awareness. Designated officers at force and regional levels (NPoCC SPOCs) provide information to NPoCC reflecting their force’s/region’s chief officer perspective on current and future events, potential resource implications and local resilience overview. Only information that is considered relevant/significant and appropriate to tier 3 mobilisation should be reported. This process ensures that NPoCC can support forces, partner agencies and stakeholders with timely and accurate information, advice and decision making in response to steady state and crisis situations.

Following routine or significant mobilisations, NPoCC ensures a coordinated post-event debrief process is implemented to capture learning, develop good practice and improve future mobilisation. These debriefs also support other related activity, eg, Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme (JESIP) and NPCC‘s Public Order and Public Safety (POPS) working group.

National mobilisation coordinator

NPoCC’s strategic lead acts as the national mobilisation coordinator (NMC) when NPoCC is required to coordinate large-scale mobilisation in response to either spontaneous or planned events (eg, in response to serious public disorder or a civil emergency).

The NMC:

  • coordinates the provision of all police mutual aid, with the exception of counter-terrorism (CT) assets, in response to requests from chief officers, and provides advice and guidance to achieve national consistency and an equitable spread of resource demands
  • supports the Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations (ACSO) in matters relating to CT and maintains an overview of non-CT mutual aid deployments in support to a CT incident, which ensures an integrated approach to mobilisation between NPoCC and the CTCC
  • provides a single point of contact for forces and coordinates with key strategic partners and stakeholders
  • appoints a deputy NMC to ensure resilience
  • acts as the single, informed point of contact for government regarding the provision of mutual aid, and national capacity and capability
  • provides briefings and NPoCC updates as part of any formal government reporting strategy (note: this role does not imply that the role of the relevant gold commander(s) and/or existing specialist policing functions, such as that provided by CT policing, is withdrawn or limited – the NMC will, as per current arrangements, work closely with key strategic operational leads)
  • leads the NPCC Mobilisation Portfolio
  • ensures the delivery of any fast-time regional/national capacity and capability assessments.

When NPoCC’s operational status has been declared and activated, the NMC is supported by a:

  • chief of staff
  • dedicated operations team which manages and leads responses to current activities (ie, within the current 12 to 24 hour period)
  • dedicated planning team which manages and leads the planning input for responses to future operational activities (ie, beyond the current 12 to 24 hour period)
  • dedicated communications team.

NPoCC may request that a host force or partner agencies deploy liaison officers to NPoCC, for example, staff association representatives, specialist skill subject matter experts, or intelligence officers. This type of request will depend on the nature and complexity of the event, but it is more likely to be made during a period when NPoCC’s operational status has been declared and activated. Specific liaison roles and responsibilities will be carried out in accordance with previously agreed memorandum of understanding terms.

Mobilisation supply strategy

NPoCC will develop and implement an intelligence-led supply strategy to meet a mutual aid requirement. This will be transparent to forces and regions and will be based on:

  • early proactive engagement with forces to understand internal capacity and capability and the potential mutual aid resource requirement
  • threat and risk assessment, which will include an assessment of the current and prospective national demand on resources
  • consideration of the specific challenges associated with the event, for example,
    • scale and composition of mutual aid
    • nature of the specific specialist resources being requested
    • nature of the event/incident requiring aid
    • duration of mutual aid
    • risk of disorder (if applicable)
    • threat and risk to officers
    • impact of the mutual aid deployment
    • media implications
  • consideration of existing collaborative agreements.

The scale and/or nature of the mutual aid requirement may result in an intelligence-led pro rata approach being applied to meet the demand. NPoCC would seek chief officer agreement to implement the approach which supports, as far as is practicable, a fair and equitable distribution of resources. If there is competing resource demand, the NPCC Chair, in liaison with the NMC, will act as a final arbiter in any situation where a decision is required on supplying finite resources (note: to date this level of arbitration has not been required).

Strategic briefing and communication

When NPoCC’s operational status has been declared and activated, it is responsible for managing strategic briefing and communication arrangements in relation to mobilisation and service resilience. These are developed on an event-by-event basis in consultation with the chief constable of the host force(s) and relevant government departments.

The factors which may trigger reporting processes to be invoked reflect the challenges associated with the event. There are four strategic briefing and communication levels, and forces should consider aligning relevant elements of their existing plans, eg, major emergency plans, to them.

  • Level 1 – no strategic briefing needed. This option may necessitate informal requests for information and/or briefing.
  • Level 2 – light touch briefing. NPoCC coordinates written briefing, supplemented by regular situational reporting to cover the specific event that has triggered the need for mutual aid.
  • Level 3 – senior official level briefing. In addition to what is set out for level 2, a bi-lateral meeting(s) with the gold commander and other target stakeholders should be arranged. This may be added on to existing governance for the event, eg, Government Policing and Security Group meetings. The option of deploying a government liaison officer/Home Office liaison officer to NPoCC or to the lead force should be considered.
  • Level 4 – in addition to levels 2 and 3, a ministerial/senior official briefing paper and meeting with target stakeholders should be arranged, or be added on to existing governance, eg, Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR – which the NPCC Chair and/or NMC would attend) or Government Policing and Security Group meetings. This meeting would cover all policing and security matters.

The target stakeholders may include, but are not limited to, relevant government ministers or officials, the police and government partners, police and crime commissioners and/or other accountability bodies, and relevant police representative bodies.

Regional (tier 2)

This response to mobilisation is based on nine regions. To facilitate mobilisation at this tier and support NPoCC (tier 3) and individual forces (tier 1), each region will host and run a Regional Information and Coordination Centre (RICC). RICCs are currently an evolving function. Each RICC has a mandate to communicate and coordinate across its region to identify and deploy mutual aid resources from forces within the region.

RICCs will have a strategic (ACC) lead with delegated authority to:

  • establish the regional response levels required for mobilisation
  • coordinate the regional response to mobilisation requests.

This will be achieved through consultation and negotiation with all the other force ACC counterparts in the region.

When not activated to mobilise resources, RICC develops and maintains protocols for:

  • creating and maintaining a regional events calendar to help with resource capacity/capability assessment to feed into NPoCC
  • a service level agreement for the region in response to NPoCC requests
  • liaising with, and accessing, other regional capabilities which can help plan and coordinate mobilisation activations/requests (eg, CT hubs, intelligence units)
  • regional mobilisation plans, eg, identification of strategic holding areas for the region
  • identifying mutual aid liaison officers (MALOs) with the appropriate skill set and experience to
    • deploy during the mobilisation phase
    • act as a key link between RICC, NPoCC, and host and donor forces on welfare matters
    • provide situational awareness reporting, to support strategic briefing processes
  • collating and quality assuring force mobilisation plans
  • capturing collaborative arrangements such as joint public order or firearms units and/or exploiting good cross-force working relationships
  • the fast-time mobilisation of resources across force boundaries within the region
  • establishing conditions of service with the forces in their region and chief officers for deployed staff
  • debriefing following activation
  • developing and disseminating good practice
  • ensuring that information input on Mercury for the region is accurate (achieved by nominating a single point of contact with NPoCC)
  • the availability of accredited commanders in the region, eg, public order gold/silver/bronze commanders.

RICC may be activated to mobilise resources by a force(s) in its region. If RICC is activated in these circumstances and NPoCC is not activated, it will ascertain the requirements from the host force(s) and coordinate the supply of resources from across the region. RICC will still, however, liaise with NPoCC to ensure visibility of its activities and to enable NPoCC to maintain an accurate overview of national resourcing.

In circumstances where NPoCC has been activated, RICC will provide a coordinated response to the national demand for resources, on behalf of the region.

RICC may also be activated to assist a neighbouring force(s) when a timely response is critical, eg, spontaneous firearms incidents. In these circumstances RICC must inform NPoCC at the earliest opportunity.

When activated, the RICC strategic lead will act as a regional mobilisation coordinator (RMC). The RMC will:

  • ensure liaison with commanders in the host force(s) and NPoCC
  • negotiate and coordinate the identification and supply of resources at a regional level
  • set the appropriate staffing levels within RICC to facilitate effective mobilisation when activated, eg, to facilitate planning, information, resources, logistics, finance, legal (PIRLFL).

Local (tier 1)

A force is responsible for responding to and managing incidents or events that are within its capacity and capability. As part of its planning, a force should assess its capacity and capability to mobilise resources, for example:

  • What is the provision of specialist roles? Is training and/or accreditation up to date? Note: to support mobilisation these roles should be trained and accredited in accordance with national standards.
  • What cadre protocols exist or need to be developed, ie, how will staff that hold, or are trained in, specialist roles be alerted and deployed during a mobilisation? What cover arrangements exist? How will staff with multiple skills be deployed to ensure maximum operational effectiveness?
  • Are there procedures to ensure operational resilience during a protracted and/or complex mobilisation?
  • How will planning, information, resources, logistics, finance, legal (PIRLFL) be resourced if a force is dealing with a mobilisation, eg, could policies be developed to enable non-warranted staff to take on some of these roles during a mobilisation, thus enabling warranted staff to undertake other duties?

This information may form part of a dedicated mobilisation plan and it should be shared with RICC to help assess regional capacity and capability.

Staff in forces (eg, control room personnel, senior management) are likely to be the first to be aware of the possibility of an event/incident which will require resources which exceed local capacity and capability (eg, in response to a spontaneous event or incident). If an assessment reveals the need for additional resources and/or specialist support, force procedures should be followed to ensure appropriate command structures are put in place to:

  • assess the event
  • decide if the initial assessment is appropriate
  • take any immediate action that is necessary to minimise the potential impact of the event
  • ensure a swift, professional response.

If mutual aid may be needed, the control room or senior management team should inform the chief officer team or duty gold so that they can assess the resource implications. If it is decided that additional resources are required from beyond the force capacity and/or capability, RICC should be notified. RICC will then liaise with NPoCC to find out whether the source and supply of resources is achievable from within the region or if there is a need to escalate to a tier 3 requirement and source nationally.

Assessment/activation process

Flow chart showing the mobilisation assessment activation process

Planning, preparing and responding

Mercury

This is the secure IT web-based system which underpins the management of mutual aid. All forces, including the PSNI, Police Scotland, Ministry of Defence Police, and British Transport Police have access to Mercury. It is owned and managed by NPoCC. Mercury allows:

  • a force which requires mutual aid, ie, host force, to input event details and request resources – split by specialism, date and scale
  • a force which has been asked to provide the mutual aid, ie, donor force, to accept or reject the request
  • logistics information to be arranged and communicated between the host and donor force.

Mercury can be accessed by designated users in forces and RICCs.

Mercury must be used for all pre-planned events which require NPoCC to source all or part of a mutual aid request (tier 3). Forces working with RICCs are encouraged to use Mercury for any tier 2 pre-planned event given the potential for escalation. This will also help NPoCC to monitor ongoing regional demand and can help support the development of a supply strategy. Mercury is not to be used for tier 1 planning.

The key priority in a spontaneous event is to achieve a timely and effective mobilisation response to support an operation. The use of Mercury is not time critical, therefore, forces/RICCs should liaise with NPoCC to clarify whether the force/RICC or NPoCC is in the best position to coordinate the use of Mercury in response to the event, at the appropriate time.

The benefits of Mercury include allowing:

  • a force/RICC to request and respond to mutual aid in a simple and consistent way
  • the host force to request any required details (eg, date of birth) from the donor force
  • the host force to arrange and communicate accommodation and transport details
  • RICCs to have a clear oversight of mutual aid activity within their region.

In addition, Mercury provides:

  • simple, printable reports
  • finance information
  • an audit of the mutual aid requested/supplied over the past year per force
  • a communication tool between NPoCC, host and donor forces involved in an event (eg, newsfeeds, publication of operation orders).

Planning

Each force should develop its own mobilisation plan which details both receiving and deploying resources. These may be collated or developed collectively by RICCs to develop an overarching regional mobilisation plan.

It is essential that staff involved in developing and maintaining a mobilisation plan have the knowledge, training, time, resources and support to ensure that it is done thoroughly.

The mobilisation plan should include (not exhaustive):

  • a named chief officer with responsibility for mobilisation (note: this could be the RICC strategic lead for an overarching regional plan)
  • a named individual with responsibility for reviewing and updating the plan
  • capacity and capability assessments as per SPR requirements
  • mobilisation assessment/activation processes
  • arrangements for hosting mutual aid and for deploying mutual aid
  • the process for recording deployment details (note: this should be achieved through Mercury)
  • a communications plan that includes provision of radio, telephone and IT systems, see ACPO (2010) Standard Operating Procedure Guide on Police to Police and Inter-Agency Airwave Interoperability
  • a transport plan for moving staff, delivering vehicles and fuel, providing secure parking and maintaining vehicles 24/7
  • an accommodation plan, including the provision of adequate toilet facilities
  • a catering plan that provides for additional resources 24/7
  • animal management arrangements that include accommodation, feeding and veterinary care 24/7
  • an equipment plan, eg, reserve supplies of essential equipment
  • a briefing plan that identifies facilities for briefing and debriefing
  • identification of strategic holding areas (SHAs) and rendezvous points (RVPs)
  • provision of welfare centres, including contact numbers
  • detailed maps of the force area that can be easily distributed to donor force staff on arrival
  • training and awareness arrangements
  • links to business continuity plans
  • exercising arrangements
  • the command and control structure and identify sufficient trained and available staff to carry out the command support roles 24/7
  • post-mobilisation considerations
  • return-to-force strategy.

For some operations (eg, pre-planned tier 3 events), there may be a requirement to develop a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the host force and donor forces. This may include:

  • the legal authority to mobilise resources
  • a statement of intent including, for example:
    • details of the dates and times of the tasking and the nature of the operation being supported
    • resources to be requested/provided (personnel and equipment)
    • operating procedures
    • practical arrangements for transport and accommodation of personnel and equipment
    • health and safety issues (including risk assessments for the operation)
    • training
    • equipment
  • financial arrangements
  • pensions, insurance, awards, torts and discipline applicable to officers from donor forces.

In addition to an MoU, the host force should consider developing an accompanying Practical Deployment Document (PDD) which contains tactical advice to support the mobilisation and mutual aid processes. NPoCC can provide advice on the development of MoUs and PDDs.

The number of staff required may vary throughout the response to an operation or incident. This will affect issues such as the provision of accommodation and refreshments. Forces and RICCs should, therefore, consider scalability in their mobilisation plan and ensure they are capable of receiving:

  • up to 500 personnel
  • 500 to 1,500 personnel
  • over 1,500 personnel.

Suitable locations for SHAs or RVPs should reflect this scalability.

Preparing

Preparation provides the link between planning and responding to mobilisation. Preparation includes:

  • raised training and awareness of mobilisation planning and processes
  • ensuring relevant staff have access to mobilisation plans
  • exercising.

Forces and regions should ensure that they identify, train and exercise sufficient numbers of staff in the roles they will be expected to perform during a mobilisation. This includes staff in support roles as well as frontline officers, eg, muster and debriefing teams, welfare teams.

Staff should also be fully aware of mobilisation processes and procedures and their responsibilities should a mobilisation occur, especially if they fulfil a function which is likely to be redeployed. Key staff in force/regions (eg, force control room, critical incident managers) should have access to mobilisation plans.

An out-of-hours process must be in place and communicated to staff to support effective mobilisation should it be required.

An effective exercise and testing programme should be developed and implemented to ensure that both staff competency and mobilisation processes are fit for purpose. Forces and regions are encouraged to engage with NPoCC, which will support exercise development and ensure learning is shared across the police service, partners and stakeholders.

Responding

An effective response to mobilisation is built on planning and preparing. Given the potential complexities and variation in scale associated with different types of events, forces/regions should be flexible with regard to delivering the response.

Commanders will require access to appointed support officers in the areas of planning, information, resources, logistics, finance, legal (PIRLFL) during a mobilisation.

This support:

  • enables command support staff within each element of PIRLFL to advise or communicate relevant issues to commanders
  • assists command decision making
  • avoids information overload for commanders.

Command support staff do not make command decisions, but they do hold the level of authority to facilitate and direct PIRLFL support. The number of staff involved in each component will depend on the scale of the event. Forces/regions must ensure that they have sufficient numbers of staff identified to carry out these roles, and factor in resilience during a potentially protracted mobilisation.

The following provides further information on those elements which are unique to mobilisation. Note: Mercury helps support delivery of these elements.

PIRLFL – Planning

A force/region’s generic contingency plans or specific plans to respond to identified risks should be used in conjunction with mobilisation plans.

PIRLFL – Information

Information requirements for planning may include supplying information to organisations and agencies outside the host force(s) area, and responding to freedom of information requests and managing disclosure. A bespoke intelligence cell or unit may be activated. This will help with the management of information and intelligence during a mobilisation.

PIRLFL – Finance

Forces/regions should ensure that accurate and auditable records of expenditure are kept. Nominated staff should be given responsibility for setting up procedures to capture all costs reasonably incurred in responding to mobilisation. Mercury can be used for this purpose. The financial accounting arrangements to be used should be clarified when the lead coordinating agency responsibility passes from the police to another lead agency.

Post-mobilisation considerations

A mobilisation is considered to have ended when:

  • the incident is resolved, or
  • the operation ends, and/or
  • the lead agency responsibility is handed to a relevant partner, eg, the local authority.

Forces should have in place:

  • mechanisms to support the recovery phase of an operation
  • arrangements for the handover of lead agency responsibility
  • a return-to-force strategy.

A mobilisation offers participating forces and regions opportunities to identify and share lessons learnt. When a tier 3 mobilisation has occurred, host and donor forces should ensure NPoCC and other key partners are engaged in post-event debriefing to ensure identified good practice is implemented for future mobilisation.

Return-to-force strategy

This should consider the following. This is not an exhaustive list.

Table showing actions and whether they are the responsibility of the host force, the donor force or the host and donor force

Page last accessed 23 July 2018