Raynor Lewis: Fewer detectives means fewer crimes solved

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The Independent Online

When I was a young constable, many officers wanted to become a detective. There was kudos in the role. Detectives were seen as the people who made things happen, helping uniformed colleagues to deal with their prisoners and guiding them through the paperwork. On joining the Met in 1981, all I wanted was to become a detective.

Things have changed. Our uniformed colleagues work a different shift system now, giving them longer periods of leave, in effect, four days on, four days off, or five days on, five days off, while detectives still work an eight-hour shift rota to a 40-hour week and are expected to remain on duty until they have finished their day's work. If a detective starts at 8am and has three prisoners to deal with from overnight, he or she could be on duty until early the next day and would still be expected to be available for duty again at 8am.

There is an obvious lack of work-life balance. Why would anyone want to leave a shift system that gives them plenty of time with their family to replace it with a system where you never know what time you're going to get away?

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in many boroughs is the poor relation. Many are controlled by a borough commander who has little or no knowledge in criminal investigation, which leads to a lack of understanding of the issues and complexities of such inquiries. This leads to a lack of investment of staff and resources which puts the detectives under more pressure. It is no coincidence that the borough with the highest percentage of their workforce in the CID has the highest clear-up rates and the one with the lowest number of detectives has the worst.

In the 1980s and earlier, the CID was a separate department within the Met, with a clearly defined rank structure. Each division was controlled by a detective chief inspector who was answerable to a detective superintendent and a detective chief superintendent at area level. They in turn were answerable to their commanders, deputy assistant commissioners and assistant commissioners, who were career detectives and controlled all matters relating to criminal investigation throughout the Met. Detectives were respected as the experts in their field and even had the words "Criminal Investigation Department" written on the top of their warrant cards.

Things changed in the 1990s when CID offices came under the control of the local borough chief superintendent. Most of them had never been detectives and could not grasp the niceties of detective work.Then the Met's Detective Training School closed, further eroding the status of detectives.

Thankfully, the school has since reopened and senior detectives within the Met are keen to raise the status and worldwide reputation of the Scotland Yard detective again. But there's a long way to go.

The author is vice chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation's Sergeants Branch board