Wanted: London detectives – no policing experience necessary!
This was the headline to the story The Guardian ran last week on the new approach being taken by the Metropolitan Police in hiring direct entry detective constables. The statement is factually correct and there is lots of thinking and research underpinning the approach.
Catharine Pereira, our Digital Media Communication Specialist with a passion for all things policing has been compiling her thoughts…
What is the new scheme?
With the rapid exponential rise in digital and cyber crime, there is an increasing need for Detective Constables.
The Metropolitan Police are currently in the middle of a recruitment drive from 31 May–3 July to hire detectives through taking applications from outside of the Police. The criteria necessary for applicants is:
a) they have lived in London for three out of the last six years
b) they hold a degree.
Once they have joined, recruits have 12 months to pass the national investigations’ exam and two years to complete a professional development programme. They will then officially become a substantive Detective Constable.
Why the need for the new approach?
There are many reasons why the Met have decided to open up this pathway, although only for a limited time period initially.
Firstly, the changing face of cyber and digital crime plus cuts to police means that there is a deficit, and therefore a need, of detectives. This doesn’t mean that the current detectives are not good enough, nor that current uniformed officers cannot progress, but rather that this type of crime is growing fast, and there are simply not the resources within the Police.
The Met’s solution to this is to hire outside of policing, to add another recruitment pool to the traditional route. Their extensive market research last year showed that although the role of Detective Constable was incredibly appealing, there was a large cohort who were put off by the uniform role. Additionally, a significant figure of 20% of those who had dismissed policing as a career due to their interest being in investigation would now consider applying through the direct route. Furthermore, the research showed that the incentive could potentially draw many BME and female applicants, both of which the Met is trying to attract to better reflect the communities they police.
What are the positives & negatives of such an approach?
Whilst this combination of current lack of resource plus the indicative market research gives valid reason as to why such an incentive has been undertaken, there are obvious challenges and difficulties this method brings forward in application.
A new approach often brings about innovation and self-reflection on previous methods. If the scheme manages to attract and retain top level talent to lead the fight against cyber crime, counter terrorism and volume crime, then it will be deemed a success.
However, due to the nature and demands of the detective role, it could be said that a vital part of both being effective and actually being sustainable in the role is the previous experience working in uniform, developing a unique perspective on crime and humans themselves.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes seen to be a divide between uniformed and plain clothed officers, with the worry that recruiting from outside the normal pathways could exacerbate a divide – not only in this sense, but between the new recruits and the existing staff too.
To be able to be credible in a role, there must be the support of peers… will this recruitment drive and training programme be able to earn the recruits the credibility needed to last in the role?
When we will know if it is successful?
Whichever angle is looked at, there are always going to be positives and negatives. The motivation for the type of recruitment is certainly justified, and is theoretically an option which can potentially begin to solve the issue of lack of detectives, however, can the experience gained as an officer in uniform ever really be replicated to give the new detectives comparable skills? And even if it can be simulated, will they ever be able to slot into the Police framework and earn validation in the role.
Only time will tell. Perhaps we will be reviewing this in a year, two years or five years time and find surprising results, opening the doors to new methods of recruitment, or perhaps it will teach us that the traditional method actually is the best way.
Finally, perhaps there is an advantage of recruiting a whole cohort of detectives who will be inducted immediately into digital and cyber crime, teaching them the risks and opportunities that the digital world can hold for detectives from the offset.
Whatever happens, something will be learnt from this, and that knowledge will help with the recruitment of future generations of detectives.