We’ve all seen portrayals of CID in fiction and we’ve probably all wondered how accurate what we’re seeing really is. Since beginning volunteering with the police, I had the amazing opportunity one day this week to shadow in Lincolnshire Police’s CID and gain a taste of the reality behind criminal investigation in the UK.
Here is a link to a couple of my tips for securing something like this with the police, if you’re interested. Also, if you’d like to learn a bit more about Leicester’s Criminal Justice Fast Track, which has helped me, here is a link for my blog post on that, as well as a link at the end for the brochure.
Having met the staff in CID previously, the opportunity to sit in on a risk-assessed interview had already been suggested to me, but as I made my way to the police station that morning, I had a particularly strong feeling that I was going to have to stick around a while before I might actually come across this opportunity. However, upon meeting one of the detectives that morning I was immediately informed of an incident that had happened the night before and was asked if I could sit in on the suspect interview. Of course, I didn’t even need to think about my answer.
So, after receiving a quick briefing of the incident, I was then given both witness and complainant witness statements to read while waiting for the solicitor to arrive for the interview. It struck me as I read the witness statements made by the arresting officers that their statements had been written at 1am that morning and I thought about the fact that around that time I’d been dosing off to sleep, safely at home, while thinking about the morning I had to come shadowing in CID. It was humbling to think of the work police officers do, at all hours, to try and keep us feeling that ‘safe at home’ feeling I’d felt.
The detective looking after me in preparation for the interview showed me the manual she uses before an interview to keep fresh in her mind the specific details that translate an incident into a specific crime. After she did so, she asked me to interpret the statements and establish why this incident was classified as such. This one little thing triggered critical thinking for me, which felt a very different experience from the types of independent thinking I’d had to do in other work environments.
As the day went on, I became increasingly confident about my ability to think critically about the situations imposed on detectives, probably in large part due to my studies in Criminology, and on top of that my opinions and input were welcomed. My input was even used in a draft for a press release on the case we dealt with that day! I was also allowed the opportunity to ask questions in the interview if I felt the detective had missed something – a huge responsibility! I realised that, apart from our obvious differences in experience and training, since the job had only come in that morning, my supervisory detective and I had more or less exactly the same knowledge of this case, which would have been why my input was so welcomed. And this, in turn, demonstrated to me how quickly things happen in the police, how unexpected your day can be, and ultimately, how no two days can be the same.
Even for the interview itself, in no way can this really be anticipated. We had expected our interview at a particular time that day, but after new information came in about the defendant’s fitness to be interviewed, the interview was put on hold. Similarly, until meeting the defendant, especially in such a stressful situation, there’s no way to know how they will respond to interview and there is, of course, no way to know what the interview will uncover. Incidentally, our interview uncovered a larger operation and the majority of the rest of the day became about investigating that, with the cooperation of the defendant and use of their evidence exhibits. This also allowed me the opportunity to explore another department in the police, which was the Divulging Information Unit.
Having spent a fair amount of time now exploring different departments within the police, I have met a number of people and have experienced some of what may be called ‘police culture’. I have seen that individual staff members vary just as much as in any environment, suggesting both that individual external contact experiences with the police can all be different and also that nobody is inherently excluded from joining. I personally have expressed concerns a number of times that my personality might not fit into typical expectations about police staff members, but that couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone is individual and similarly, everyone is still learning – police officers are made, not born, and your individuality is in no way a constraint on that.
One of the nicest things I’ve found about this more individual side of the police, as well, has been the way that people interact with each other. It feels as though everyone is joined by similarly shared, sometimes difficult, experiences, and so almost every staff relationship is a safe space for letting off steam.
An experience like this is really incomparable to the fictional depictions we see, so if you have ever thought you’d like to know what it’s really like from an outsider’s perspective, I highly recommend volunteering with the police and then perhaps building up contacts to inquire about shadowing in other departments you may be interested in.