Detectives in Crisis aims to raise awareness of the current state of detective policing in England and Wales by focusing on the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF), highlighting the work and issues detectives face, and the trauma that comes with this role.
Being a detective can be one of the most rewarding experiences in policing and can offer endless opportunities. However, it’s been long known that there is a tremendous strain on detectives with recruitment and retention issues being one of the main problems they are facing. We’re asking senior officers and PCCs to look at this role within their force area to better support officers and to try to redress the balance, while ensuring there is adequate support for the wellbeing of officers in this role.
Detectives Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey 2020 findings
Following the publication of our Demand, Capacity and Welfare Survey 2020, we pulled out some data reflective of how detectives currently feel in their jobs. Click here to view some interesting facts and figures.
Glyn Pattinson, Chair of the Police Federation’s National Detectives Forum (PFNDF), discusses in a selection of videos:
Odds against Dwindling numbers of Detectives
Glyn Pattinson, Chair of the Police Federation’s National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF), says we need to recognise the demands and personal impact of dealing with serious and disturbing crime.
“Unsurprisingly, policing can be very grim at times. No officer I know signed up thinking it will be easy, but while we embrace what we face with pride and the overwhelming will to protect the public we serve, it shouldn’t come with the expectation that we can all cope with anything and everything. We can’t. No-one can.
“Recognition must be given to officers and staff throughout policing for the constant commendable work they do and their unwavering nerve – particularly throughout the pandemic. My PFNDF colleagues and I want to bring to light the challenges detectives face; the unrelenting volume of serious and complex criminal investigations, with little or no respite.
“Every detective I know wants to do the best job possible, but there simply are not enough of us. Demand is outstripping resources and colleagues are working excessive hours, forgoing rest days, sacrificing time with their families and simply not getting enough rest.
“The sad thing is that this is a normal working week for most, severely impacting on physical and mental wellbeing. It’s hard enough trying to process and cope with traumatic criminal investigations, but this is in addition to supporting scared and distressed victims, working with partner agencies, the Crown Prosecution Service, and seeing a number of legal processes through to completion to bring some form of closure for those affected.
“Officers tend to put their own welfare last and the misconception by many that officers can forget what they have seen once a case has finished and swiftly move onto the next – or rather juggle several cases at once – only adds to the strain. All of this is cumulative and lasts a lifetime.
“We need to get better at supporting each other – recognise when we are struggling, talk more openly about wellbeing and listen. There are sources of support out there, but we need to see cultural change and we all have a role to play in that.
“Throughout this month, we will be sharing personal stories from officers who have sought support, officers who have helped colleagues, and we will shine a light on the fantastic detective work that goes on day in and day out.
“We are all finding it tough right now, in every force, in every discipline and if now isn’t the time to recognise the signs and show simple acts of kindness, I don’t know when is.”
Chair of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum
Proud of a job that’s given me skills for life
There’s an inner investigator in all of us – Karen Stephens, Secretary of the Police Federation’s National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF) reflects on a role that’s tough but rewarding.
“When I joined the police in 1991, I was told then that ‘the job’ was not like it used to be – but I can honestly say that the job itself hasn’t changed, it’s everything around us that has. We all have our tales to tell and I can reminisce with the best of them, but the general premise of what we do is still the same – we catch bad people, hopefully lock them away and help people who can’t help themselves.
“Yes, I know you can do this in most policing roles, however, if you’re fed up going to a job and not seeing it through to the end, or not being able to deal with those ‘decent’ prisoners you bring in, then maybe you should consider becoming a detective.
“Detectives have been in crisis for far too long; officer numbers and morale are still at an all-time low. But whilst my PFNDF colleagues and I continue to lobby for change, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some incredible individuals and teams working their socks off, achieving great things, tracking down villains and securing justice. Yes, I’ve seen friends and colleagues break under the strain and horror of the most depraved crimes, but not one of them would change a thing if they could start their career over.
“When you join the police, the training you’re given enables you to become an investigator. That applies to everyone. I know many believe that, because they’re not in detective roles, they don’t consider themselves to be investigators. Not true! As soon as you turn up to a scene you begin an investigation. I’m not teaching you to suck eggs, I just think it’s worth reiterating.
“If you’re happy to do the initial investigation and move on to the next job, then great – we’re all different and that’s what makes the service what it is. However, if you want to get into the detail, see investigations through to the end, then please consider becoming a detective. In my opinion, it’ll be the best thing you can do. Yes, you must study and sit an exam, but if you have an enquiring mind, this is the job for you, and you will thrive at it.
“The courses you go on from witness and suspect interviewing to disclosure will give you skills for life, transferrable to any role. And you do them so often it will be impossible to forget. Having previously worked in a unit for four years where we didn’t interview suspects very often, I then went back into the main office, concerned I’d have forgotten how to, but I didn’t, it was second nature. Granted, some of the forms had changed, but it felt like I’d never been away.
“Like many roles within policing, the job can hugely impact your wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Detectives come face-to-face with some harrowing scenes, which is why it’s so important that colleagues recognise the signs when things are getting too much and that the right support is in place from a welfare perspective.
“I’m currently working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing (CoP) to develop a preventative toolkit to assist with treating officers who have unfortunately become unwell due to the job. Tools like this will be vital in keeping the officers we have fit and hopefully attract new recruits to what is ultimately one of the most rewarding careers out there.”
Secretary of the Police Federation’s National Detectives’ Forum
GMP Federation Detective Lead Highlights Recruitment and Retention Challenges
Overbearing workloads, a lack of resources, and the sheer pressure of the job are putting people off applying for CID and from staying in the role.
Jared Sudworth (pictured) is a Detective Sergeant and Detective Lead for Greater Manchester Police Federation.
He says there is no real financial incentive for officers to become detectives either despite the lengthy and involved application process.
That process involves would-be detectives studying for exams, building and maintaining national and annual accreditation portfolios.
With austerity and experienced detectives quitting it's left a 'big gap' in GMP CID creating concerns about the mental and physical health of those still in the job.
"I've had conversations with people who have left CID, and there are several factors at play," he said.
"There is the pressure people feel under, the workload is intense and overbearing, and certainly in Greater Manchester, we've got a lack of resources around the detective constable rank which means that people are picking up more work than they should be because there are not enough resources to manage it.
"The stress and pressure of the role itself - the risk that they're carrying adds pressure and stress to you as an individual. And when you look at the recruitment into the role, you've got to take an exam, and you're not getting the financial reward."
Becoming a Sergeant and an Inspector are the only other roles in which candidates have to pass an exam and an accreditation process. There are financial rewards in both roles for doing so.
"You don't get that for being a Detective and you should," Jared said.
"You are studying, you're taking a national examination, and you then have to do an accreditation portfolio and now an ongoing annual accreditation to keep up that portfolio, so in my view, you should be getting an enhanced payment as you would if you had spent all that time to get promoted."
It's not just all about the money, officers being able to go on secondments to learn the CID ropes have largely been stopped in GMP meaning candidates are missing out on getting vital first-hand experience.
"You’re asking people to take a step from response policing which is very, very difficult but doesn’t give you a great scope for file building, complex investigations which those kind of [secondment] units did - there’s a lack of experience around investigating serious and complex issues in jumping into the CID,” Jared said.
He’s worried morale among the detective ranks isn’t great right now. It’s not been helped by the force being in special measures.
“Morale isn’t good, and I can understand why,” added Jared. “When you look around and see CID officers now they’re very inexperienced, because we’ve lost some really good experienced officers over the years due to retirement, austerity and not recruiting. There are big gaps forming now.
“Promotions have been opened up, which means that people are getting promoted quicker and leaving this vacuum within the Detective arena.
“When you’re working the long hours that they’re working, with the increased workload, but you’ve got a lack of staff around you, of course, morale is going to be affected.”
There’s likely to be even more worked piled up on detective’s desks in the near future too, Jared warned.
“Attorney General guidelines were brought in for the end of December around disclosure. It’s an increase in the workload,” he said.
“They’ve got the Victim’s Charter that’s just come in. It’s absolutely right that victims should be put first, but there is an additional administrative responsibility for investigators now.
“We’re increasing the workload, but the resources aren’t increasing.”
It’s all building up problems for existing detectives and the public. COVID delays have seen criminal cases pushed back 18 months or more, and when they start to be heard again, it’s likely to have a ‘massive impact’ on CID.
“People are going to fall over – a recent independent study showed CID ranks’ emotional energy is low, but their anxiety symptoms were high,” Jared said.
“That’s not good, it’s going to affect people’s long-term mental health, so it’s essential they look at the options available to help them such as the Oscar Kilo website which I think will have a detectives section soon,” he added.
“Speak to your colleagues, let them and your line manager know how you feel, let’s try and get some kind of plan in place to manage people’s mental health.”
Seeing justice done makes being a detective incredible
We spoke to career Detective Chief Inspector from City of London Police, Gary Robinson, who has been in the police service for over 20 years.
“I joined the police as a response officer in Chelmsford 20 years ago, which was such a great grounding experience and introduction to policing. Not before long, I realised I wanted to be a detective on complex criminal investigations, to track down offenders, take them to court and see it through to the end but more importantly, I wanted to support victims from start to finish.
“The beauty of policing is that there are so many challenges and opportunities, and this is what makes it such a fantastic job. You can do something for two or three years if you're really loving it and if you’re happy to stay with it then absolutely do, but for me I wanted to experience everything. There are lots of different areas like Counter Terrorism, Public Protection, Fraud and Major Crime, and I wanted to gain as much experience as I could.
“Unfortunately, I think it’s becomes less of an attractive role for two reasons – one is financial and the other is the ‘watering down’ of the role. There is often a lack of investigative experience in policing, so any investigation deemed complicated will end up with CID, meaning you are juggling some major crimes alongside those traditionally dealt with by uniform colleagues – being a detective is a specialism and should remain so.
“I think people are also discouraged by the perceived tough and prolonged training you have to go through. However, I do think it's important that it is a tough two years or so because that ensures you’re a better equipped officer to deal with the demands of the job. Even if you don’t want to stick with being a detective, you’ll have learned skills you can take with you to any policing role.
“It’s a shame that some are discouraged from ‘taking the plunge’ into CID, but this is a career that can open so many doors. I've seen and done things that other police officers may never experience. I’ve worked with great colleagues and together we’ve solved some high-profile investigations.
“I’m very fortunate to work for the City of London Police, which is the national lead force for fraud, we often work collaboratively with other forces – another positive of the role is how we’re continuously learning and sharing best practise. Just last week we arrested a callous individual who administered a fake Covid-19 vaccine to a vulnerable person which made national news. A horrendous crime, but an example of successfully working with colleagues in other forces to find the offender and secure justice.
“I look at the City of London and we've got seconded officers in Interpol, in the United States – and such arrangements are reciprocated. I've been to the States and worked with their law enforcement and it was a fantastic experience – once in a lifetime.
“Working across forces and different jurisdictions, whether that be nationally or in Europe with Interpol, helps us all learn. It gets results, and it’s incredible to come together in one combined effort to capture those that are causing harm, to put them in front of the courts and get justice for victims.
“I truly love my job, and there are so many other reasons why that I haven’t mentioned, but of course I’ve also found it a struggle at times and I can understand why the ‘Detectives in Crisis’ campaign was launched. It is a tiring role and we’re suffering a national shortage, but the core function of being a detective hasn’t and will never change.
“We have to investigate wicked, sickening crimes and whilst processing the detail is traumatic, we do it for the victims and to make society a safer place. It’s important to remember that everybody goes through struggles. Have I been through difficult periods? Of course I have – I’d be lying if I said I hadn't.
"But being a detective can be one of the most rewarding experiences that can offer endless opportunities. There’s something about solving that puzzle and the thrill of the chase of getting that criminal which makes being a detective incredible.”
Detective Chief Inspector, City of London Police
Detectives speak about the pressure of the job in a selection of video and case studies below:
Danny Bolton (West Yorks): I turned to alcohol to cope with the job
DC Clare Day (Kent): An extremely demanding role
DC Denise Knox (Cleveland): No love and support coming from above
DC Jacqui Gravenor (Dorset): It's a perfect storm
DI Simon Huxter (Dorset): Near on impossible workloads
DS Paul Large (Met): Incredibly frustrating for victims and officers.
Want to know more?
If you would like more information, or have any queries relating to the role of a detective, please contact:
Glyn Pattinson, Chair of the PFNDF – email@example.com
Karen Stephens, Secretary of the PFNDF – firstname.lastname@example.org