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National crisis for investigative policing

Tuesday, 05 September 2017


Karen Stephens, national lead for detectives and secretary for the Police Federation's National Detectives' Forum (PFNDF) on why this specialist area of policing is in crisis and the need to evidence just how bad the situation is.
Traditionally to become a detective you had to fight for it.  Prove that you had what it takes - it was a career that I long aspired to pursue, my vocation.  But I've watched colleagues become down heartened with the job - stressed, over-worked, under paid, and with no incentive for promotion decide to leave the service.  Our latest national detectives' survey seeks the views of serving officers. We want their voices to be heard - the reality to be told.

It takes years to become an experienced detective officer with the necessary skills, empathy and instinct to investigate serious crime.  Sadly, we are fast losing that experience, dedication and skill.  It's not a job you can leave at the door and that's no wonder when you are dealing with traumatic cases involving abuse, kidnap or murder.  Many of which will haunt my colleagues for years to come.

But with crime on the increase, the number of detective officers is not.  The whole service is at breaking point with huge resilience and retention issues across the board.  It's all hands on deck and everyone is prepared to share the load but the result is a diluted service with officers who are tired, stressed and frustrated with the knock-on effect this is having on the public - the reason why we all do the job in the first place.

The bottom line is we do not have the time or resources to investigate properly - this year's survey seeks to prove that.

Senior officers have accepted there are resilience issues, and are proactively approaching retired officers to come back sworn in as civilians or even volunteers.  Some forces have even gone down the direct entry route - an affront to many serving CID and uniform officers alike. What a sorry state of affairs - we cannot lose anymore experienced officers - surely the way we are heading is cost prohibitive but you cannot and should not put a price on public safety.

The police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), published in March 2017, highlighted the national crisis in the shortage of detectives, and that the public, including vulnerable victims, are being put at risk.

A shortage of detectives is something that affects many of our forces, if not all. The PFNDF has gathered evidence as to why there is such a shortage and the impact this is having on those already in the role, so that we can better determine possible solutions and push for change.

We last ran a national detectives' survey in 2015, which generated more than 5,500 responses from the federated ranks of DC to DCI, on issues including sickness levels and stress.

  • 93% of respondents felt that their stress was caused or made worse by their job
  • An overwhelming majority of officers, 83% felt that service cuts had also impacted on their wellbeing, some examples given included increased stress levels, tiredness to managing increased demands, increases in travel and lower pay for more hours
  • 75% of officers felt that their work kept them away from their families and social activities more than they would like

A demand, capacity and welfare survey of officers across England and Wales in 2016 found;

More than half (60%) of officers said that there is insufficient time to deliver a service to the public that they can be proud of, which is causing morale to be low.

Last month, we asked all detectives and trainee detectives to complete a survey. The results, being presented at the PFNDF Awards in a few weeks' time, will allow us to continue to represent concerns and progress the interests of detective officers throughout England and Wales.


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