Exclusive Interview: Guy Collyer, Police Crime Prevention Academy

January 17, 2022

Faced with ongoing security threats arising from a variety of sources, it is vital that relevant national departments increase working relationships with one another to improve efficiency and protect people, key assets and critical infrastructure.

Though a communicative approach is desirable, it is unfortunately not so simple when put into practice. In fact, one of the major hurdles to overcome when looking at how to encourage dialogues between parties involved in security, health and safety and policing is ascertaining whose responsibilities are whose.

In this exclusive interview, Security Journal UK spoke with the Head of the Police Crime Prevention Academy, Guy Collyer, to understand the significant implications that key partnerships can have on the effective management of risks and to learn more about how individual experiences are positively shaping the work of the Academy.

Developing networks and changing the landscape

Starting his career in policing in 1983, Collyer worked around the UK in a number of significant roles at organisations such as the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO), the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and Interpol. Collyer reflects: “I transferred to Hampshire in 1989 and in 1994 I joined Special Branch there. After a period of time, I stepped away from this position and went to the north of the county as I needed a job where I could be flexible with work hours.

“I was posted as, what was then referred to as the Crime Reduction and Architectural Liaison Officer, and is now known as a DOCO (Designing Out Crime Officer). I went on a course during this time and lesson one asked: ‘Why are we investigating all this crime instead of preventing it?’ This struck a chord with me and I found it fascinating. I started a degree course in this and then came across the National Counter Terrorism Prevention Unit which was a two-person team based in London. In the aftermath of 2001, the decision was made to expand this team and to rename it.”

In 2002, Collyer went and joined this unit and it was renamed ‘NaCTSO’ with a brief to protect the UK against the use of hazardous substances such as ammonium nitrate. To ensure maximum efficiency, the decision was made to split the work they were doing up into smaller, specialist areas. “I was particularly interested in the work around pathogens and toxins,” explains Collyer. “In 2001, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act had come out and part seven of that was legislation to do with security in laboratories.

“It was a steep learning curve and I was very grateful to the Health and Safety Executive who helped me with their experience of trying to get that science community to take up health and safety measures, let alone security and counter-terror ones. I then had to develop a network of police officers, now known as Counter Terrorism Security Advisors, and I had to train them how to implement the legislation. For these people to have credibility in their field, they have to understand the language.”

After his time at NaCTSO, Collyer moved over to the CPNI where he worked on the CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence) team. Gaining a significant amount of experience in this specialist field, at the end of 2012 he was offered the position as Head of the Bioterrorism  Prevention Unit at Interpol and had three years travelling the world, training police forces on issues related to bio-terrorism and bringing them together with academics, scientists and wider departments. Collyer elaborates: “As a colleague from the FBI once said: “When sat on the edge of a bomb crater, it is no time to start exchanging business cards.” It is important for police to have strong dialogues with these people throughout, not just after incidents and major developments occur.

“The biosecurity landscape has changed massively in my perspective. At Interpol particularly, trying to persuade Chiefs of Police that the threat of biological materials was a policing issue was a mountain to climb; the implications are huge, particularly when you look at the previous pandemic – the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed millions of people worldwide – as well as the fear generated by the 2001 anthrax attacks.

“I took a team out to West Africa during the Ebola outbreak and we were confronted by all of their experiences, things we had not even thought of. There were many challenges for them to overcome, but the key one was using PPE. They were assisting with body removals using no more PPE than a pair of gloves and an apron that they would go home and wash and re-wear.”

Creating effective partnerships

For Collyer specifically, whilst crime prevention is very much about combatting opportunists who are looking to take advantage on a smaller scale, many of the same methodologies and partnerships can be applied when faced with threats from terrorist and serious and organised crime groups.

Collyer adds: “I think partnerships are crucial in creating effective initiatives that mitigate the impact hostile groups can have, especially if they are backed by significant resources and planning. In my current role at the Police Crime Prevention Academy, we have developed training and strategic problem solving practices. One of my favourite authors, Matthew Syed, has a book titled ‘Rebel Ideas’ which assesses the importance of partnerships and how critical it is to have the right people and parties involved in discussions – in fact, some of the best ways of doing this is by involving people that disagree on issues as they often get to the route of the problem quicker and find a more realistic and considered solution.”

As security companies grow, frontline officers need to be kept up to date with guidance so that they understand their role in relation to the present threat landscape as well as any changes to procedures and training; in doing so, roles will continue to professionalise and standards will improve dramatically, particularly as the necessary requirements to obtain SIA licenses increases. Collyer explains: “Nobody is saying that security officers need to go and directly challenge people whenever they think something suspicious is happening, but reporting things and getting things wrong for the right reasons is not a bad thing to do if it mitigates a potential risk.

“I have been involved with Police Crime Prevention Initiatives (Police CPI) for a long while. I came back from Interpol in 2015 and I picked up some conversations with Jon Cole, Chief Operating Officer of Police CPI, to discuss the ways in which we could launch an effective academy that liaised with the College of Policing to deliver educational courses.

“Training can be fifteen people sitting on seats not fully engaged with the topics under discussion. Subsequently, we made the decision to introduce qualifications so that people had to prove evidence that they have engaged with and can apply the learning.”

Not only does the Police Crime Prevention Academy offer online courses which can be completed at both a development and qualification level, over the next 12 months it is going to continue pushing into the private sector. In addition, the Police Crime Prevention Academy will continue to work very closely with the Home Office on both the Safer Streets and Violence Against Women and Girls campaigns.

To find out more information about the work of the Police Crime Prevention Academy, visit: https://www.crimepreventionacademy.com/

This article was originally published in the January 2022 edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

Read Next

Security Journal UK

Subscribe Now

£99.99 for each year
No payment items has been selected yet