The case of the missing police detectives
It's no surprise nobody wants to work for CID when government targets have reduced policing to box ticking
News that police forces across the UK are short of around 5,000 detectives comes as no surprise to me. If, by some hideous error by management, the police were down 5,000 administrators then yes, I'd have been shocked, but detection of serious crime became less important than meeting government targets some time ago.
Once I actually investigated a serious aggravated burglary when I was a uniformed police officer in England. All the elements were there: motive (a jealous ex-husband with a variety of gardening implements), forensic evidence (a spade covered in the blood of the new boyfriend), a manhunt (my suspect had fled to his mum's house in the next town) and some good witness statements ("imagine my surprise when I woke up to see my ex-husband standing at the end of the bed holding a spade"). OK, so you didn't have to be Sherlock Holmes to work it out, but I was looking forward to tying it all together when I came back off my rest days.
When I got back, the detectives in CID had taken all the paperwork, arrested the offender and remanded him. Thanks guys. No, really. Because, being a knuckle-dragging wooden-top, I actually prefer dealing with the usual round of eBay frauds by Nigerians, thefts of razor blades, playground hair pulling and 'looking at me funny', or 'harassment' to give it it's correct term.
The specialist units all swan around the police station in Abercrombie and Fitch
Not that being a detective is that glamorous either: you've got a caseload, you've got some crimes you'll never solve in a million years, you're short staffed and you don't get SPP (Special Priority Payments). One the one hand you get to wear a suit, but you could join one the many plain clothes units and wear your jeans and T-shirt.
It's not that being a detective isn't a good job, it's just that these days there are so many other options for getting out of the penal battalions of modern policing, popularly referred to as 'the front line': the specialist units that purport to deal with everything from drugs to domestic violence all swan around the police station dressed head to toe in Abercrombie and Fitch without the need to wear the unflattering uniform or pass the detectives exams.
Each new government directive seems to create another fashionably dressed department and before anyone realises what's going on, the more traditional elements of uniform and CID are down to the bare minimum dealing with everything the new departments don't have a mandate for.
Shortly after CID stole my aggravated burglar, I was recruited to a big-city Canadian force as a patrol cop. Nowadays, when I start work I like to upload the latest crime maps to the in-car computer. They display the very latest information on what crimes are happening where, together with possible suspect descriptions and any vehicles involved.
I also like to print of the latest list of stolen cars, where they were stolen from and at what approximate time. These, together with the home addresses of our most industrious criminals mean I can direct my patrol efficiently, harassing as many criminals as possible and, simply by being on the street and not in the office, prevent crimes from happening in the first place. I'm treated like a professional, given discretion and time to investigate things as I see fit and because of that I get respect from the public.
What has happened in the UK is that central government targets and an obsession with procedure, have turned the business of investigation into a series of boxes that have to be ticked and the police force itself into a clerical branch of the criminal justice system. So when uniformed officers are told to detect a certain number of crimes a week, you can be pretty sure that they aren't wasting time gathering evidence for the whodunits when they can be making up the numbers by seizing minute amounts of cannabis. These are clearly not the kind of skills you need as a detective.
Simply trying to recruit more box-tickers as detectives is no alternative to creating genuine professionals in the uniform branch and giving them the skills and experience which they can then take into CID. ·
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