The new head of HMIC says forces should consider offering bonus payments to detectives to help tackle a shortfall of 5,000 investigators nationally, a suggestion backed by the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF).

Andy Cooke, chief inspector at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and a former detective himself, discussed the fact that the number of detectives in major crime units had dropped by 28 per cent in the past decade during an interview with Police TV. The proportion of crimes solved has dropped from 14 per cent to six per cent over the same period.

He asked: “If you’re trying to attract people into being a detective, should it carry a bounty as part of that? Should there be a bounty on the achievement of passing the various detective exams?

“It’s an issue that police need to consider, because changing the whole mindset of people in a short period of time to allow us to have sufficient detectives across the country isn’t going to happen quickly. So there needs to be some different thinking by far more intelligent people than me.”

Glyn Pattinson, chair of the PFNDF, has welcomed the comments: “I have the upmost respect for Andy Cooke and everything he talks about in this interview is exactly what we have been saying through the PFNDF for years. 

“The attraction – and retention – of detectives is a real issue and we fully support the use of incentives such as targeted variable payments to help reward those who have worked hard to pass the National Investigators’ Examination and go on to achieve PIP2 accreditation.”

Jon Nott, deputy secretary of the forum, explained: “Currently, it is a postcode lottery as to whether detectives get any extra payments.  They automatically lose the best part of £1,200 when coming off a 24/7 pattern and losing the unsocial hours allowance.  There is then the stress of having to study for and pass the exam as well as then completing the portfolio.

“This is all done while carrying a workload that is ever increasing and carries with it in some cases enormous risk for both the detective and the Force.  This work doesn’t ever go away, you don’t hand it over to the next incoming shift; it stays there and you struggle to switch off from it. 

“Yes, you earn over-time when dealing with jobs but that means that you are away from family and then get the court warnings for lengthy periods of time, which mean you struggle to get leave.

“A payment for passing the exam and becoming a detective would be welcomed and to have it agreed at a national rate so that all are receiving the same amount would be welcomed rather than the current variation from force to force would be an added bonus.”

Mr Cooke also argued that there should be more detectives in the senior ranks to act as role models.

He explained: “That whole sort of senior role model detective isn’t as visible as perhaps it was when I was a detective inspector, detective chief inspector and detective superintendent,” he said. 

“Encouraging more detectives to actually go through towards senior officer ranks may be one way of doing it, but it’s a difficult problem.”

Find out more about the PFNDF.