Caseloads and paperwork remain the biggest challenges for detectives, according to the chair of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF).
Ben Hudson said disclosure rules and the process of getting files to the Crown Prosecution Service left officers bogged down with administrative tasks.
Speaking on TalkTV as part of the channel’s Police Week, he said: “Detective workloads are huge and there are competing demands.
“Detectives are predominantly in the office or out and about making inquiries but are also carrying huge caseloads for cases which could go on for six or eight months or sometimes take more than a year to investigate.”
He said disclosure rules and data protection guidelines made their jobs even more difficult.
“The biggest challenges are caseloads and paperwork and the amount of administration needed just to get a simple charge,” he said.
“In 2021 new guidance came in from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and that is what we have to abide by in order to put a file in for a charging decision.
“The rules set out by the Attorney General govern what the Director of Public Prosecutions has to issue for the CPS and ultimately it means that, because of the Data Protection Act, we are having to spend far more time sitting at desks across policing in order to redact personal information from the files we hand over.
“So, where we have people on body-worn video that aren’t involved in the case, their privacy is at stake so they have to be blocked out.
“If we take someone’s phone, which we do in most cases, of all the contacts in that phone and all the people that have contacted them there might only be one person involved in the case and all the others have to be redacted so personal information isn’t being shared.
“It’s a huge job. Technology can only do so much because we have to look at it and identify it so one of the things I am leading on nationally for the Police Federation is to seek an amendment to the Data Protection Act to create a ‘data bubble’ for the police and the CPS.”
Ben, who is the Suffolk Police Federation secretary, said there was a national shortfall in detective numbers and that uniformed colleagues no longer jumped at the chance of a transfer.
He said: “Becoming a detective requires an additional exam and sometimes that from an educational perspective will put people off.
“But also, to be a detective you are roughly taking a £1,200 pay cut because of the difference in not working nights and the shift allowance you get for that as a uniformed cop.
“One of the things we are looking to address nationally is pay parity so we can try to ensure we can keep people interested in becoming a detective.
“There are not enough detectives across the country. We can’t attract people to move from their unformed roles into detective jobs but what we have been able to do really successfully is attract new people into policing and I think we should be really proud of the way we have been able to attract people who didn’t necessarily want to wear a uniform into policing so they can serve the community, help victims and do a jobs that they really enjoy as a detective.”
Ben said his role as chair of the (PFNDF) was to represent and enhance the role of the detective which he felt had become under-appreciated.
He said: “We are working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Deputy Chief Constable Jason Hogg at Thames Valley Police is doing some fantastic work around the investigative resilience plan, really trying to enhance the role of detectives in areas such as pay parity, wellbeing and continual professional development.
“I think over the last 10 years the role of detectives has been somewhat undervalued within policing. The public quite rightly expect boots on the ground and want to see visible policing but being in jeans and a t-shirt or a suit isn’t visible policing so it’s been undermined in the sense that the work has been devalued.
“Colleagues just don’t want to be detectives and my job is to sing the praises of detectives nationally and encourage colleagues to become detectives.
“If we can enhance our detective numbers across the country then we can potentially get back to those proactive, out-and-about roles rather than being stuck in offices making sure that we get cases to court.”
National Federation chair Steve Hartshorn said it was important for detectives to be allowed to get on with their jobs
He said: “If you want experienced investigators to do their job properly they need somewhere to work from, they need the right kit and they need the right training so while it’s nice to see boots on the ground in the uniformed sense, it’s really important that our experienced detective colleagues have the time and the space to do the job properly.
“When you look at the cuts we have had in officer numbers, it’s made it more difficult to do that because they are carrying far higher caseloads than they ever have and some of the recent changes in disclosure rules have impacted on their ability to get those case files prepared properly and quickly enough to get decisions from the Crown Prosecution Service.
“There is not just a single fix that will make it easier, there’s a whole culmination of events that have led to it becoming a very pressured job.”