Domestic Extremism is a term used by police units to describe protesters who use direct action as a way to bring about political change, or groups whose demonstrations are thought to contain a risk of public disorder. The term has been used to cover pretty much everyone who has been involved in significant protests against the state or multi-national corporations in recent years.
There are five categories of domestic extremism, which are very broadly drawn:
• Animal rights
• Extreme right wing
• Extreme left wing
• Emerging trends
Domestic extremism also forms a part of the PREVENT strategy (preventing violent extremism), although PREVENT is primarily targeted at Muslim communities.
Domestic extremism is policed through a specialist team headed up by a National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, Anton Setchell. He runs three units –
• NPOIU – National Public Order Intelligence Unit. This carries out surveillance and analyses ‘intelligence’ on political activists and protesters. It is thought to be headed up by Detective Superintendent Maria Smith of Wiltshire police, although this is unconfirmed.
• NETCU – National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit. This unit advises and supports businesses that are the target of protest campaigns. The ‘public face’ of NETCU is Superintendent Steve Pearl.
• NDET – National Domestic Extremism Team. This carries out investigations into alleged offences carried out by political activists. It is headed up by Detective Chief Inspector Andy Robbins of Kent Police.
These units employ 100 people, of which two thirds are seconded police officers. They are funded to the tune of £9m.
These units are run by ACPO and are not part of any regional police force. Like ACPO, they have the status of private limited company. They are not currently covered by the Freedom of Information Act, although there have been moves to include them, but ACPO have promised to respond to FOI requests. So far though, not much has been forthcoming.
The domestic extremism units are accountable only to Anton Setchell, who in turn reports only to ACPO TAM, a high level ACPO committee that includes counter terrorism units and the security services, as well as senior government officials.