Is the shortage of detectives in local policing a real crisis? A mixed methods research study exploring the perspective of six police forces

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Derby

Principal Researcher

Dr. Richard Stapleford

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

June 2021

Research Context

In 2016, HMICFRS asserted in their ‘PEEL assessment’ publication that the shortage of detectives within policing is a ‘national crisis’. The aim of this study is to examine whether the recruitment, retention and turnover of detectives within participating police forces is a ‘crisis’. If so, this study will seek to explore the reasons, it’s impact and possible solutions.

Objective 1: To establish if there is a current shortage of detectives.
Objective 2: To identify which detective roles reflect the greatest shortage.

  • This will be achieved by analysing HR data and outlining recruitment and retention trends for detectives within participating forces

  • Comparison of establishment against actual ‘detectives’ in post (general and role specific)

  • Vacancy application rates for detective posts (how many people apply for a vacancy)

  • Turnover of detectives

  • Exit interview data.

Objective 3: To understand the local strategies for the recruitment, and retention of detectives.

  • Qualitative interview with recruitment expert(s) from participating forces

  • Qualitative interview with Detective Manager from participating forces

  • Literature review.

Objective 4: To understand the current detective shortage and principal determinants of the shortage.

  • Literature review

  • Exit interview data from detectives who have left role during the last 2 years

  • Primary data capture (Focus Groups, Interviews and Survey)

Objective 5: To recommend measures that should/could be taken to address the shortfall in detective numbers.

  • Literature review

  • Primary data capture (Focus Groups, Interviews and Survey).

Research Methodology

Phase One: analysis of secondary data provided by Management Information experts.

Phase Two:

  • Qualitative interview with recruitment expert(s) from participating forces.

  • Qualitative interview with Detective Manager(s) from participating forces. 

  • Focus groups (participating forces) involving:

           1. Experienced detectives (DC, Sgt, Inspector x8 participants).
           2. New Detectives (either within 12m service or Detective Fast Track scheme x8 participants).
           3. Experienced uniformed officers (PC, Sgt, Insp / Response / NHP x8 participants).
           4. Student uniformed officers (training school x8 participants).


Phase Three:

  • National survey directed at police officers (detectives and uniformed officers all ranks).

Date due for completion

March 2022
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