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Paying detectives more key to ending shortages, says Foundation

Forces should consider paying detectives more in a bid to reduce the shortage of investigators, according to the police think tank.

The government and Chief Constables will be told in January that hoping degree students will opt to go straight into investigator roles will not be enough to fill the 5,000 vacancies across the country.

The Police Foundation’s strategic review of policing, which is set to be published in the New Year, will call for detective's pay to be reviewed in order to add the allowances and regular overtime payments earned by uniform officers.

Director Rick Muir said forces will also need to convince experienced officers to become detectives and take on violent and sexual offence cases which don't happen in normal working hours. 

“You do have to reward people for specialisation,” he told Police Oracle. “The Service needs to look at how they make these roles more attractive. The sad fact is currently you may not be better off and there’s a lot of unsociable hours involved.”

The role has become unattractive because of heavy caseloads and the fact that through overtime, a response officer can earn more.

Some forces, including the Met, are already looking at pay and direct recruitment schemes.

A group of 15 forces have already added a £4,000 premium for specialist roles – but this has mainly been firearms officers. And the Police Now Detective Scheme has also attempted to reduce vacancies.

But they have been unable to make an impact leaving teams with at least one post per unit unfilled.

The result is officers are having to stay longer in units specialising in child sexual abuse.

The pay review board’s annual report revealed earlier this year that ministers have realised it’s a complex problem – but one that is crucial to meeting government commitments to improve convictions for fraud and sexual offences such as rape.

The PRRB report said: “The Home Office considered that managing the shortage of detectives and ensuring the right people stayed in the job required a co-ordinated approach, particularly as most of these officers would continue to come through traditional entry routes.

“It welcomed the action forces were taking to ensure they had sufficient numbers of detectives required to investigate crime. The Home Office had continued to fund the Police Now Detective Scheme to bridge the gap in detective numbers. It observed that workforce planning and quality of supervision were areas where more needed to be done.”

January’s report by the Foundation is likely to include three recommendations on detectives:

But Mr Muir warned budget constraints would mean forces wouldn’t be able to recruit specialists in IT or financial crime from the private sector as the salaries offered would be uncompetitive.

He said: “Forces will need to find ways to work more with organisations in the private sector. We all know there are gaps with things like digital investigation. These are areas where private sectors like the insurance industry have the skills – but they pay more.”

Mr Muir added: “It’s about forces finding a way to work in a more systemic way so they can bring people in for specific investigations.”

Improving direct entry schemes, like the one used by the Metropolitan Police should be another option.

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has floated the idea of bringing in Army intelligence officers who have decided to end their commissions or recruiting retired military intelligence officers such as those who have worked for MI5.

 APCC lead on organised crime, Donna Jones warned that even if police officers could be persuaded to move, it will take too long to get them trained and forces have a problem now with international OGCs operating in their communities.

She said: “We need the people in the roles doing that work now, because of the level of organised crime that currently exists in the country.”

Rick Muir said it should be an option for forces.

He told Police Oracle: “There’s a lot of cross over with criminal investigation work with intelligence agencies. The situation is such that we urgently need to look seriously at different options.”

The idea was cautiously backed by the Police Federation but with it came the warning that forces would be competing with civilian jobs as well as defence contractors. So pay would also be a critical issue if they were to be brought in through existing job structures.

Chair of the Police Federation’s National Detectives’ Forum Glyn Pattinson said: “Recruiting military personnel into the police service is a good idea as they have strong, transferable skills – but the starting salary through the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship scheme is unfairly low and only just above the National Living Wage which can put barriers in the way.”

He added: “The service desperately needs more detectives with specialist skills to battle cybercrime which continues to grow in scale in complexity, however, public sector pay cannot match private sector pay so attracting people into these roles is a massive challenge.”

The Fed’s position is that there isn’t a lack of ways to recruit into the role and frontline officers aren’t opposed to change.

Mr Pattison said: “ROCUs have traditionally recruited by taking detectives from home forces which are already short of detectives, so we welcome a new, open approach to recruitment.”

The Fed warned fundamental problems of wellbeing and resources needed to be resolved.

Mr Pattison said: “The truth is many officers no longer wish to specialise as a detective due to the unrelenting volume of serious and complex criminal investigations, with little or no respite.

“Demand is outstripping resources and colleagues are working excessive hours, forgoing rest days, sacrificing time with their families and simply not getting enough rest.” 

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