As far as police acronyms go, SIO is likely to be familiar to anyone who is a fan of crime dramas or documentaries. But what does a Senior Investigating Officer working for Counter Terrorism Policing really do?
As part of #JusticeTogether week, we thought we’d shine a light on some of the key roles in our network, starting with a Counter Terrorism SIO.
Simon* has worked for Counter Terrorism Policing since 2017, his first day coincided with the Westminster Bridge terror attack.
Since then, he’s been CT SIO for over 100 investigations, covering a broad range of ideologies.
Simon, what is the role of a CT SIO?
In a nutshell, it’s to keep the public safe. The CT SIO will have the police lead for counter terrorism investigations, working closely with the security and intelligence services.
Once we’ve been assigned to an investigation the CT SIO will meet with relevant partners to come up with an investigative strategy. We then go away and plan the police response, identifying core functions, the chain of command and the initial actions that need to happen quickly.
Clearly, the nature of the investigation or incident will determine the speed at which we act and resources needed.
Each investigation is very different and will be dictated by the kind of risk a person presents. It might be that we start an intelligence building operation to develop a clearer picture, or in some cases we will take immediate action, such as an arrest, a search warrant or other kind of activity in order to disrupt any suspected terrorist activity and keep the public safe.
A CT SIO will be supported by lots of different teams with lots of different specialisms, they might include forensics, digital analysts, and offender management.
As with any case, the CT SIO will then follow the investigation right through to court, for any trials and sentencings.
What type of investigations does a CT SIO oversee?
Our work is incredibly varied, I have experience of post-attack investigations, but the majority of our work is focused on preventing attacks and investigating and taking action so that the public do not come to any harm.
CT investigations can centre on online activity, attack planning or terrorist activity abroad that may have an impact here in the UK. This bit of what we do isn’t always in people’s faces, but it’s happening around the clock.
We draw on all the specialist resources within Counter Terrorism Policing for our investigations.
It’s a challenging job, what is the most difficult part of what you do?
As you can imagine, it’s a complex area of policing which demands a lot of precision, but also creativity and ingenuity – we often have to think outside the box, but inside legal frameworks! With any investigation, the biggest challenge is fully understanding the risk someone might pose; a huge amount of work, expertise and collaboration goes into building this picture up, so we can work out what disruptive action to take.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I am incredibly lucky to work with a whole range of organisations from across the UK Intelligence Community; it’s fascinating and a privilege.
It might sound a little clichéd, but I also enjoy the responsibility of keeping the public safe, you couldn’t do this job if you didn’t feel strongly about that. Throughout my policing career I’ve been part of teams tackling organised crime gangs, and homicide investigations, Counter Terrorism was the next challenge for me.
During my time with Counter Terrorism Policing, I have been involved with a number of post-attack investigations. They are of course shoes we’d rather not step into, but thorough, professional and dedicated police work is essential, to secure justice, support victims and improve things for the future. As an SIO in Counter Terrorism Policing, I am part of that.