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Hampshire Police Federation

Federation Detective Lead: Detectives are struggling with low morale and large workloads

19 January 2021

Detectives are struggling with stress, large workloads and low morale, Hampshire Police Federation’s Detective Lead has said, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Det Sgt Nick Milburn has been in the police for 27 years and a detective for eight years. He supports the Police Federation of England and Wales’s focus this month on the issues that detectives face, and the difficulty and trauma that comes with the role.

He said: “Since austerity, detectives have had increasing workloads, including high-risk cases. During that time there’s been a real downturn in morale in officers, who are feeling under pressure.

“That’s reflected across the service. But detectives do carry a lot of stress – some of the cases they deal with are really worrying at times and when you’re struggling to get through your daily workload and also making sure everyone is safe and well, it can have a real impact on detectives. That’s why there’s such a high rate of mental health issues and suicides.”

The pandemic has caused extra stress for detectives, Nick said. He said: “We’re only human and we worry about the pandemic and being more susceptible to COVID than most. And when some officers are self-isolating, it has a massive impact on our ability to manage work. It’s been a real struggle.”

In the latest survey from the Police Federation National Detectives Forum (PFNDF), carried out last year, 73% of detectives who responded said they were not able to provide the service victims needed most or all of the time. The PFNDF said this showed a “service in crisis”, and that this was just one issue of many in detective work that was leading to low morale.

Another big issue for detectives is recruitment and retention, resulting in departments being under-resourced.

Nick said: “It’s still difficult to recruit detectives to a degree, because of how it was over the period of austerity and cuts, and the pressures that the role brings, which leads to an undermining of the role. If officers are coming through the Direct Entry route, or for younger officers, sometimes it’s more attractive to be flying around on blue lights.”

However Nick is confident that recruitment is on the up in Hampshire, and that it should make a difference to detectives.

He said: “We’re very lucky in Hampshire in that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – we’re leading the way nationally with some of the initiatives with recruitment. There’s a lot of people coming through the system. I’m not saying that will change everything. But we’re certainly going in the right direction at the moment.”

In addition, Nick says that “Hampshire is leading the way in how it treats people” and that the Federation and force have a raft of wellbeing and counselling initiatives to help officers.

He said: “When detectives are struggling, Hampshire is one of the best forces nationally for taking care of its staff.  People coming from other forces really see the difference – there are a series of measures for support, and options for when people are not feeling well.”