Rebranding the HTCU

Posted on January 14, 2010

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Our outgoing DCI brought her replacement to our office this week, to show him around and introduce us all. When they came in she introduced us as ‘The HTCU – this is where they talk about widgets and flange capacitors and stuff’. With that sentence, we were all instantly reminded of our station in the world – we’re geeks, saddo propeller-heads with no place in normal society. As I contemplatively dusted the Watchmen action figures that guard my monitors, I thought to myself ‘This cannot stand, man’ (I’d been watching The Big Lebowski the night before). And then it struck me.

High Tech Crime Units need rebranding. While our colleagues in front-line policing are getting hip new uniforms for the modern urban crime environment – cargo pants, reversible baseball caps, liveried hoodies and enough person-mounted electronics to sink a Robocop – we’re still stuck with the same drab image we’ve had all along. OK, so some places have their own polo shirts with ‘Police Geek’ on the tit. Whoopy frickin doo. We’re still, for the most part, stuck in a back room at the unfashionable end of Scientific Support or in a corner of a Major Crimes Unit, where we’re sneered at by the Grim Faced Detectives. Are we ready to come out of our dungeon, comrades? Shall we do a Gok Wan on our asses?

You never see him and Stephen Hawking in the same room, do you?

Enough is enough. We need to change the public perception of forensic geeks. I propose a three-pronged approach to our new image: name, uniform and vehicles.

Name

We seem to go under a few different names: High Tech Crime Units (High or Hi? No one ever seems sure), Computer Investigation Units, Digital Forensics Units and so on. These sometimes sound quite interesting to the outside world, but internally they just shout ‘dweeb’. Additionally, ‘High Tech Crime Unit’ is too easily turned into ‘High Cost Time Unit’, a cruel jibe at our fondness for overtime. The Met are a bit different (of course they are – God made them special!) and seem to have a 12-man high tech unit to support every bobby, CSO and traffic warden.

Personally I like the word ‘brigade’. It has a pleasing revolutionary, paramilitary sound to it. No one ever pushed in front of a member of a brigade in the canteen queue, I’ll guarantee you that. The French Interior Ministry has a branch called the Brigade de répression du banditisme – the Brigade for the Repression of Banditism (in case you couldn’t figure it out) How cool is that? You hear that name and you just know that the chicks from Intel never ignore those boys at the Christmas do.

So that’s the ‘Unit’ part of the name replaced with something a bit snappier. How about the rest? I think now that we’ve raised it, ‘bandit’ is far too good a word to waste. Although most of us spend a lot of our time on sexual offences we also cover the whole range of financial scams, frauds, deceptions, robberies and so on, so I think we can safely get ‘banditry’ in there.

ENBRIBs comin'!

Putting it all together, I suggest ‘E-noncery and Banditry Repression and Investigation Brigade’ – ENBRIB for short. Does that roll off the tongue? Can you hear DCI Jack Meadows shouting ‘I want ENBRIB here NOW or we’re all going to die!’? Would Omar Little throw his shotgun out of the window and come out quietly when he heard the ENBRIBs were outside? I like to think so (not that we’d ever arrest Omar though, because he was so cool).

Uniforms

It’s important to give the right impression with what you’re wearing – I’m known throughout my force as as a model of sartorial elegance, so I’m well qualified to dispense advice here.

Obviously we’ve got to have hats, that goes without saying. Everyone seems to be going with baseball caps these days, but I’m not much of a fan of them. They’re handy for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but they’re a bit uncouth, a bit too vernacular for us. I propose a beret, worn at a jaunty angle, with a cool cap badge that’s also a WIFI detector. The colour of the beret would be up to the individual force. Also on the head is a flip-down monocle enabling the wearer to see in night vision as well as infra red and UV – the latter would be handy for detecting when we need to wear gloves for handling an exhibit.

For the rest of the uniform, I suggest that for dress occasions we have a smart tunic and a diagonal leather strap across the torso, while for normal working days we wear combat trousers with extra pockets. Lots and lots of pockets, and flaps, and straps for holding things on with. Naturally the trousers would be tucked into boots – we need to protect our toes, after all. Finishing off the ensemble would be a polo shirt with the local ENBRIB logo emblazoned proudly on it. For ours, I’m proposing a fist done in Soviet-heroic style, clutching a ribbon of 1s and 0s. Anyone with drawing skillz who can draw one of these for me will receive 50 Monkey points.

Vehicles

There’s a big van that we sometimes see parked in our car park that’s something to do with the Major Incident Unit. It’s a huge, long thing that bristles with roof-mounted lights, antennae, and a couple of external charging points on the side. We covet this van. A lot.

It will be ours. Oh yes, it will be ours.

When we become a Brigade and people start taking us a bit more seriously, we’re going to seize control of this van and make it ours – we’ll call it the Mobile Forensic Operations Vehicle, or MOFO-V for short. We’ll paint it black, but not shiny ‘attracts the dust’ black, more a sort of matt charcoal like the cars in Robocop. Inside, it’ll have a full lab with several workstations and gimbal-mounted monitors hanging from the ceiling. Under the floor will be a layer of cabling on top of a layer of TACC boxes, for attacking encryption in situ. We’ll be able to pull up outside a scene with sirens whooping and strip-lights strobing and provide killer evidence on the spot, while everyone watches in awe. We’ll sit there in our new awesome uniforms while the big hard pipe-beating bastards from the search teams bring us coffee, and we will finally have made it.

This post was brought to you with the help of an unremarkable Shiraz from Bargain Booze, Laibach, Pink Martini, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. It was delayed by a strange fella on the train who didn’t even try to be subtle while trying to read what I was writing. Freak.