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Comment: what is the problem with direct entry?

You don?t have to have rolled around on the floor with strangers to be a good detective argues Dr Susanne Knabe-Nicol
Published - 22/05/2020 By - Dr Susanne Knabe-Nicol

We are painfully short of detectives on a national level. A survey conducted in Suffolk Police found that an effective drop in salary coupled with increased specialism requirements, training and studying, responsibility and severity of cases is just not an attractive combination when a uniformed cop considers becoming a detective. Why work far more complex crimes, carry responsibilities for Crown Court cases, and have no-one at the end of the shift to hand over to, when you’re effectively getting less money for it and you are working yourself into the ground? Are you still investigating or are you just processing cases because there are so few of you?

It is a fact that the detective profession is not enticing enough for uniformed officers to aspire to. So police forces are forced to experiment with other ways of getting people in. One of those ways is a direct-entry detective pathway, which allows external candidates to apply to become a detective. Whilst these schemes are met with scepticism by many, they have anecdotally produced some very talented detectives whose skill sets would not necessarily have drawn them towards performing several years of patrol in uniform first.

I saw a job advert for direct-entry detectives on LinkedIn, and, as I had done so often before, I shared it for others to see, adding ‘Could you be a detective?’ to the post. I really didn’t think anything of it. But before long, people had started commenting on the post expressing their outrage at the very idea that someone lacking the proper police experience of having been a uniformed PC for a number of years, was now able to become a detective. Emotions were running high. The first comment stated ‘A sad indictment for British Policing.’ The second one ‘A truly sad day!’. Most comments were in that vein and appeared to be coming from retired police officers. They talked of devaluing the profession of a detective, they talked of direct entries not having the necessary experience and skills, and they talked of police forces being desperate. I agree with the third point only.

Why do some officers feel so incensed and insulted? Is it just a fear of change in general? Is it missing the good old times? There are currently around 90 comments on that post on my LinkedIn page, and it has been seen around 5,500 times. I have never had this much engagement on anything else that I posted before, this one really hit a nerve. How did male soldiers feel when women were first allowed to join their ranks? How did police investigators feel when civilians first became their fellow investigators? How did male students and teachers feel when women were first allowed to enrol at universities? I happen to be an investigative psychologist with a policing background and therefore could bring a skillset to an investigative position that might offer some different points of view to that of a traditional police officer: police look for evidence, I look for the offender’s decision-making criteria. But what about other backgrounds? One of the comments in the post mentioned ex-military personnel, or a social worker who has dealt with cases that would make a police officer cry. Who is to say they wouldn’t make a great detective? You need an inquisitive disposition, you need to be good with people, and you need to be open-minded. Where does it say you need to be able to iron a uniform and shine your boots?

Any change is met with fear and resistance by some. But until a proper evaluation takes place, all opinions expressed are just opinions. We have to trial something new if the old way doesn’t work, or even if we simply don’t know if it’s the best way of doing things. That is the essence of evidence-based policing: you question why things are done a certain way, and if the answer is not because this

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