Detectives should be paid “bounties” to help boost crime-solving rates, the head of the police watchdog has said.
Andy Cooke, HM chief inspector of police and former Merseyside chief constable, said forces should consider offering bonuses to detectives to combat a national shortfall of up to 5,000 investigators.
The number of detectives in major crime units has dropped by 28 per cent in the past decade. At the same time, the proportion of crimes solved has more than halved, from 14 per cent to six per cent.
Speaking to Policing TV, Mr Cooke - a detective for more than 35 years and commander of the first “Matrix” gun and gang-fighting squad - warned it could take years to change attitudes to the job and train enough recruits, even with the 20,000 officer uplift.
Long and often anti-social hours have been blamed for the dwindling attraction of the job. Unlike uniformed constables, detectives are not entitled to allowances for overnight shifts, as they do not operate shift systems.
“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?” asked Mr Cooke.
“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.”
Mr Cooke has said the best detection rates come where police forces have set up specific teams to combat crimes like burglary. It means every victim gets a visit, to ensure a crime scene is scoured for forensic and other clues.
'Striking loss of confidence in undercover policing'
As head of Merseyside’s Matrix unit in 2005-6, he pioneered a proactive model where the team identified gang members and uniformed officers disrupted their business through stop and search. Evidence from “reactive” call-outs to all crimes were also sifted for links to gangs.
He described it as “proactively targeting, proactively looking to link offences, knowing who the key offenders are, spending time and actively identifying what their offending is”.
He added: “If you look across the country, we seem to have lost the ability in a lot of places to actually recruit informants. There has been a striking loss of confidence in undercover policing because of the current undercover policing inquiry. The results of undercover policing are absolutely fantastic.”
'Role model' detectives needed
He told Policing TV there also needed to be more detectives in senior positions in forces to act as role models, with the knowledge to help shape successful investigative models, such as specialist squads.
“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.”
He said he was inspired as a boy to become a detective by the television series The Sweeney and had never been deterred in pursuit of his career, because it was “so satisfying” to tackle some of the biggest criminals in the UK.
He described the “fantastic” feeling of bringing drug and gun smugglers to justice, as well as one particular case where he gave a “massive amount of relief” to a family by solving a “cold case” murder 12 years after it was committed.