Helping the police with their inquiries: improving investigator resilience and capacity in England and Wales

Adrian James*, Colin Rogers, James Turner, Daniel Silverstone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: In 2016, the oversight body for policing in England and Wales reported a national shortage of 5,000 qualified detectives and other investigators. Commissioned by the National Police Chiefs Council, this research critically assessed initiatives taken by the Police Service of England and Wales since that time to remedy that shortfall. The purpose of this study is to answer the question, “To what extent can fast-track investigator recruitment and training schemes enhance the PSEW’s investigative capacity and capability?” Design/methodology/approach: Between 2019 and 2020, the authors examined four cases in England and Wales. Three were novel fast-track programmes for new joiners. The fourth was an investigator resilience programme. This study was qualitative and interpretive in nature. The authors carried out systematic reviews of the literature on investigative policy and detective work. The authors reviewed internal evaluations completed by Forces A, B and C. The authors interviewed respondents (n = 82) and supplemented the interview data with survey data (n = 45; N = 127); the authors analysed the data thematically and reviewed the findings in the context of systems theory and social identity theory. Findings: The major themes identified by the analysis presented in this study were marketing and recruitment, attrition and progression, acceptance of the trainees, training and trainees’ welfare and well-being. The programmes were not as successful as they might have been because of systems failures. Principally, ineffective coordination of the programmes with other elements of the forces on which their success also relied (such as training, human resources and detective, departments). A critical limiting factor was the lack of experienced, skilled detectives able to train, support and mentor the trainees. Practical implications: This paper provides empirical evidence of the efficacy of a whole systems approach to organisational change. This study evidences the crisis in police investigative practice that limits the service that the police can provide to victims and communities and ultimately threatens police legitimacy. This study provides insights from police practitioners into detective work in the modern era and highlights areas where improvement is necessary. The research on which this study is based was commissioned by the National Police Chiefs Council. Thus, there is institutional buy in to its findings. Originality/value: With its roots firmly in empiricism, this paper presents the first scholarly evaluation of the police's attempts to make up a massive shortfall in investigators. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this paper presents the first attempt to explain the challenges the police faced in this context, thematically. This study’s focus on systems and on human behaviour is intended to inform a wide audience beyond British policing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0055
Pages (from-to)79-92
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date14 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2023


  • Detective work
  • Police training
  • Policing
  • Social identity theory
  • Staff recruitment
  • Systems theory
  • Training/professionalisation


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