Meet the new detectives being ‘fast-tracked’ through Suffolk police
PUBLISHED: 05:30 21 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:52 21 February 2020
Suffolk police launched a controversial new scheme in 2017 to recruit and train detectives without the requirement of having two years’ experience of working as beat officers in uniform. A new crop of 16 recruits have now started their training and Michael Steward visited police headquarters to find out more.
When it first launched, Suffolk Constabulary's new fast-track detective entry scheme attracted much attention and interest from the general public. More than 2,300 people made enquiries and 229 completed applications were submitted.
The force selected 22 applicants and all passed their detective exam. Apart from one person who relocated to elsewhere in the country, all now work within the force's serious and complex crime investigation teams.
The success of the Suffolk scheme has not gone unnoticed. It was nominated in the World Class Policing Awards in November last year and Temporary Detective Superintendent David Henderson said part of that success has been down to stringent recruitment.
"It was first launched as a bit of an initiative really, a bit of 'let's see if it'll work'. Ultimately, detective numbers are down across the board, nationally, [forces are] struggling to recruit so we just looked to do something a little bit different to appeal to maybe some other people out there who might not want to be a uniformed officer but may be interested in progressing as a detective," T/Detective Superintendent Henderson said.
"A lot of this was because we chose the right people originally. Some of it would have been luck as to who applied but a lot of it was down to scrunity and standards we applied when we took people on.
"There's been a lot of interest in our scheme particularly, because of those levels of success, both in and around the exams, and also because we've had very little attrition in terms of losing people thereafter.
"We were one of the pilot forces but we all did a slightly different interpretation. It was very much left to the forces. We've put something together, it's been a good success and lots of other forces are now contacting us to see if they can replicate what we've put in place."
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T/Detective Superintendent Henderson said there were initial concerns over the scheme and whether it was the right way to go about filling the shortfall in detective numbers.
"I think it's fair to say there was a initial degree of maybe some cynicism/scepticism about whether it would be a success," he said. "I think a lot of that was just borne out of that it was something completely new.
"There were concerns about whether or not people would be able to pick it up that quickly, concerns about whether or not we'd get the right sort of people in, and whether it would be a lot of work for those officers training individuals for little or no reward. But that hasn't been the case at all."
A new crop of fresh-faced 16 recruits, from all walks of life, began their 10-week training at the end of January.
After leaving university, new recruit Thomas Handley-Howard, 24, from Bury St Edmunds, became an estate agent. He said he has joined the scheme in search of new experiences.
"I was looking for something that would be exciting," he said. "Everybody would say they are looking to make a difference, but also a career where you can think 'this was interesting, this was exciting, these are experiences which you are not going to have otherwise'.
"It's been a really good change actually. I think lots of people have such transferable skills that they can bring to this as well so it's open to everyone.
"There's such a broad spectrum about what we can do, which is great. We've got some great experts who can give us lots of advice."
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Fellow trainee detective Sarah Downing, 32, from Gorleston, was previously a forensic scientist specialising in DNA profiling but said she wanted more of a hands-on role.
"It follows on from my previous career and I just wanted to get a bit more of a broad horizon in investigations," she said. "I wanted to get into the nitty gritty of crime, and be involved with the public.
"All the trainers are so supportive, they've got a lot of information and knowledge to share."
Leia Dowsing, 41, who formerly worked for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and as police staff, was one of the original recruits who began on the scheme in November 2017. She is now a CID officer within Suffolk Constabulary.
"Very much people have had a life and had different careers before they joined the detective entry scheme. So it's pulling on different experiences, which I think is a good thing for an investigator," she said.
"It gives you a different outlook on life, a different way of dealing with things that you wouldn't necessarily have if you had always been within the same job.
"For me, it was about a fresh challenge and I wanted to gain more experience and knowledge and to also be able to own an investigation from the start.
"It's hard work, it was a long time since I'd been in the classroom. You kind of have to learn how to learn again. There was a lot to fit in within the two years and it was blur and you just had to keep on it."