Detectives are paying the price for the pressure of their role, says Fed chair

7 January 2021

Detectives are sacrificing their own wellbeing to cope with the ever-growing demand of their roles, says Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe.

His comments come as part of a month-long Federation focus on detectives.

“Past workforce cuts hit us hard and we’re still paying the price, with fewer detectives working longer hours. This can have a real toll on their mental and physical wellbeing, with colleagues sacrificing their own welfare and time with their families,” said Steve.

“It’s often forgotten that they don’t just deal with the horrific headline cases, when in fact detectives find themselves juggling multiple invesitgations, in addition to supporting vulnerable victims. It is wrongly assumed all detectives are able to handle this and that’s not right.

“It is vital that we consider officers’ mental health to ensure the necessary support is available. We each have a responsibility to look out for one another, speak out about mental wellbeing and also recognise when colleagues might need that extra support.”

As part of the Federation focus, Glyn Pattinson, chair of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum (PFNDF), says more needs to be done to recognise the demands and personal impact of dealing with serious and disturbing crime.

 In a blog published on the national Police Federation’s website, Glyn says: “Unsurprisingly, policing can be very grim at times. No officer I know signed up thinking it will be easy but, while we embrace what we face with pride and the overwhelming will to protect the public we serve, it shouldn’t come with the expectation that we can all cope with anything and everything. We can’t. No one can.

“Recognition must be given to officers and staff throughout policing for the constant commendable work they do and their unwavering nerve – particularly throughout the pandemic. My PFNDF colleagues and I want to bring to light the challenges detectives face; the unrelenting volume of serious and complex criminal investigations, with little or no respite.

“Every detective I know wants to do the best job possible, but there simply are not enough of us. Demand is outstripping resources and colleagues are working excessive hours, forgoing rest days, sacrificing time with their families and simply not getting enough rest. 

“The sad thing is that this is a normal working week for most, severely impacting on physical and mental wellbeing. It’s hard enough trying to process and cope with traumatic criminal investigations, but this is in addition to supporting scared and distressed victims, working with partner agencies, the Crown Prosecution Service, and seeing a number of legal processes through to completion to bring some form of closure for those affected.”

Glyn says officers tend to put their own welfare last with many people under the misconception that they can forget what they have seen once a case has finished and swiftly move onto the next, or juggle several cases at once. But this only adds to the strain, with a cumulative impact that lasts a lifetime.

He called on officers to help each other but also wants to see a cultural shift.

“We need to get better at supporting each other – recognise when we are struggling, talk more openly about wellbeing and listen. There are sources of support out there but we need to see cultural change and we all have a role to play in that,” Glyn explained.

“Throughout this month, we will be sharing personal stories from officers who have sought support, officers who have helped colleagues, and we will shine a light on the fantastic detective work that goes on day in and day out.

“We are all finding it tough right now, in every force, in every discipline and if now isn’t the time to recognise the signs and show simple acts of kindness, I don’t know when is.”