Cumbria Police Federation

Detectives feeling the pressure of increased workload, increased stress and more complex crime

19 January 2021

Detectives are struggling to cope with an increased workload, increased stress and more complex crimes, while also being understaffed, Cumbria Police Federation has said.

Jamie McTear, Cumbria Police Federation Secretary, has been a detective for over 14 years of his 21 years in policing.  As Detective Lead for the Federation, he is pleased that the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) is this month focusing on the many issues that detectives face.

He said: “I think the role of detective hasn’t changed but the demand on the role has changed. The demand’s gone up and the number of detectives we’ve got available to do the job has gone down.

“There’s increased workload which increases the stress, and the type of work that detectives are having to deal with now is far removed from the traditional burglaries and street robberies. There’s far more safeguarding and serious complex crimes that are falling in detectives’ laps.”

Jamie said that Cumbria Police force was trying hard to recruit more detectives, especially with its direct entry scheme, the Degree Entry Holder Programme (DHEP).

He said: “With the DHEP programme, they’ll join as a new police officer and then the second year of their probationary period would be tailored towards becoming a detective. Pleasingly, what the force has found is that it is attracting people with diverse backgrounds, looking for a different challenge, into the organisation. I look forward with trepidation as to how it’s going to work when the first intake comes in later this year.”

But Jamie said this was “only part of the answer”.

He said: “I think making the role desirable again and showcasing what detectives do is part of it as well. It’s difficult when response officers, see their detective colleagues with high workloads, complex and serious crimes, working long hours, difficult shifts, rarely going home on time. It doesn’t paint a classic picture of the role.  With the detective DHEP programme we will gradually see more trained detectives in role meaning individual workloads should reduce but this is still a long road. 

“As well as the nature of the jobs we’re dealing with, detectives are dealing with victims who have been subject to some horrendous crimes and invariably there’s far more emotional investment for detectives in the investigations and a want to bring offenders to justice for the victims..

“They’re also dealing with partner agencies, the CPS, and the timescales from the start of the investigation through to the courts. Balancing that with several other similar investigations with several other victims and the emotional investment in those cases as well, massively impacts on the mental health of detectives.”

Jamie added that any detective who felt they were struggling with mental health issues should contact their Federation rep or the force’s occupational health unit.  There is a wealth of help available through Occupational Health and from the Federation and associated charities.

He said: “I would advocate that any detective or any officer who is starting to feel that strain, starting to wobble a bit under the pressure of the job they’re doing, seek the help from occupational health. It is okay to not be okay. It’s important that if you’re starting to feel the stress and the strain of the role getting to you, please do speak up. There’s no shame in that at all.”

He said the Federation is working with Crime Command and the Learning and Development team to try to make the role of detective more attractive to experienced officers.

“It's about raising the profile of detective work and making it as desirable as it used to be. When I joined the police over 20 years ago, you’d have officers knocking down the door wanting to become detectives. If we could get back to that, where we have more people wanting to do the job and we have enough people in role, retaining those people in those roles with those skills, then it will reduce the pressure on individuals. Despite the increased pressures and workload, being a detective remains not only one of the most challenging roles but also one of the most rewarding in policing.”