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Faced with a “national crisis in the shortage of Police Detectives”, the government has come up with a new plan. Rather than recruit more via the usual two-year training, they’ve started a bargain basement scheme under which detectives can now supposedly be fully trained in just 12 weeks.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary warned last year that:
“There is now a shortfall of 5000 investigators across England and Wales. This means one in five detective desks are empty or are filled with unqualified staff. It is not surprising that this often places a very great strain on existing detectives.”
The Police Federation also reported in 2017 that morale amongst detectives had hit “rock-bottom” due to pressure caused by lack of resources.
The shortage of detectives has led many police forces to give up on investigating minor crime. The Metropolitan Police has even brought out guidelines on whether or not to bother investigating whole swathes of certain crimes.
Car crime, criminal damage and shoplifting are amongst crimes which the document – the Crime Assessment Policy – says should not be routinely investigated, in order to save money.
In 2015, Leicestershire police trialed a scheme where they only investigated burglaries at odd-numbered houses. They claimed this had no effect on public satisfaction or burglary rates.
The new scheme will see detectives out on the streets after just 12 weeks training. It has not been well-received by existing officers. Karen Stephens, secretary of the Police Federation’s National Detective Forum, said:
“This news is an insult to the experienced hard-working detectives that we have left in service. Detective policing is in crisis and our colleagues are struggling to cope with heavy workloads and increasing demand but another ‘direct entry scheme’ is not the answer.
The service and the public deserve better than detective officers who will be trained ‘in a matter of months’. Let’s not forget that detective officers deal with the most depraved and complex of crimes – this requires experience.”
The government has put £350,000 into the programme, which aims to deliver 1,000 new detectives over the next 5 years. But given that police cuts have led to the loss of almost 20,000 officers since 2010, it’s unlikely that this bargain-basement scheme will have much to offer for victims of crime.