Detectives are at risk of ‘long term psychological impact’ and are suffering burnout as they handle growing workloads, the Police Federation claims.
Police officers who carry on investigations as detectives feel they will “never be able to get on top of” their growing caseloads, according to Devon and Cornwall Police Federation’s Detective Lead Suzanne Vranch, who has been working with the force to improve the role for investigators.
Suzanne said: “The main reason we can’t retain detectives is largely down to the demand. The volume of workloads is way above what it used to be. Detectives can have between 10 and 20 cases actively being investigated and others going through the court process.”
In October 2019 PlymouthLive highlighted how the introduction of the “released under investigation” system, with no impending bail dates, meant that detectives ended up being given more and more cases to investigate as there was no longer any time limits being imposed. Some officers then remarked that their caseloads had become unmanageable.
Suzanne said: “One of the big things that worries officers is that they never feel that they’re getting on top of the workload and they’re doing a disservice to victims because they want to put time, passion and skills into it, but they are being prevented from doing so.
“And because of staff shortages and the additional demand we face, the knock-on effect is officers working extended hours. Overtime becomes the norm, officers can end up working double shifts, they are using their rest days to go to court and that affects their work/life balance and their families.”
Suzanne is concerned about investigators’ wellbeing, as they struggle to manage the demand. Coupled with the trauma that officers face, she warned of “long term psychological impact”.
In December last year PlymouthLive reported how figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed that more officers had taken their own lives in the last decade than died in service.
Suzanne added: “Detectives face a lot of trauma. “For instance with the volume of death related incidents.
“The same sergeant can be going to a number of suicides within one set of shifts. They are also dealing with serious sexual abuse and child abuse and that naturally does cause anxiety, stress, depression and post traumatic stress disorder for investigators. The welfare of our officers is a priority.
“They are burnt out. I know detectives within my area who have gone off to be neighbourhood officers and it feels like a burden has been lifted.”
She said the force was moving in the right direction however thanks to work from the Federation – which represents rank and file officers – and force investment. She revealed that Devon and Cornwall Police was now running at a shortage of 15 percent, an an improvement on previous years. In addition it was pushing to recruit new detectives with 56 officers recently passing their CID exam and 12 more set to take it in March.
In September the force saw 20 Degree Holder Entry Programme detectives begin the recruitment process and in January another 18 more joined.
Suzanne said: “Up until a year ago I was a detective – and had been for 10 years. There is a real sense of pride from being involved in investigations and seeing them through the court process. It is extremely rewarding seeing that hard work being paid off and justice being achieved for victims.
“As a detective you see the most serious of crimes such as rape, grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, and you see the trauma those crimes have had.
“To be able to be part of that healing process makes you feel immensely proud. You are part of a process that helps pay back the wrongs of society.
“Those long custodial sentences not only help get justice, but help safeguard the wider public by taking those offenders off the streets.”