May they be with the force? ‘Civilian officers’ to double
NOTTS Police is planning to more than double the number of non-police officer investigators it uses to help solve crimes, it has emerged.
Concerns have been raised about the use of the “civilian investigators” – who help tackle crimes from rape to theft, but do not have full police powers.
The idea of increasing their number was mentioned in a five -year plan from police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping earlier this month, although no figures were included.
The force has now revealed it has around 30 civilian investigators on its books – which it wants to increase to about 70 over the next year.
Phil Matthews, chairman of Notts Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said he was against the expansion.
Mr Matthews, a serving officer with the force, said: “Exactly what roles will they be civilianising? I would argue it limits the functionality of policing.
“For example, I’ve policed in the city centre and at football matches. At any point the force can ask me to work on traffic, and I can pick my kit up and do it.
“You don’t have that with a civilian investigator – by using them you lose resilience. The majority of the time you can get away with it because really bad things, like major emergencies, don’t happen that often.”
The force said the extra 40 civilian investigator jobs in the next 12 months would command a starting wage of around £21,000 and would be employed directly by the force.
Many other forces, such as Leicestershire, Derbyshire Greater Manchester, also use civilian investigators.
In Notts they already work in police investigation teams including fraud, crash investigation, CCTV evidence investigation and public protection – which covers sexual offences such as rape.
Many are ex-police officers or come from civilian investigation job backgrounds – such as forensic accountants.
But Councillor John Clarke, chairman of the Notts Police and Crime Panel, which oversees the role of Mr Tipping, also said he had reservations about expanding their use.
He said: “I think it could deter some people from going in to policing – people could think ‘hang on a minute, what’s the career path now?’ They [the force] are looking at any way of saving money – but this could be damaging for the progression of existing police officers. I am concerned by the concept.”
But Mr Tipping, who drew up the report mentioning their expansion, said: “Because civilian investigators are on a lower pay rate it allows me to spend extra money on new police officers.”
Mr Tipping is expected to unveil his first budget for the force, expected to include plans to recruit 100 extra beat police officers over the next year.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Ian Waterfield said: “It is innovative, more effective and efficient than using police officers in these roles.
“There are people out there in our community that have specialist skills that we can and should tap in to.
“It would be really expensive to train officers with these skills and it means we can direct our police officers into areas where they are most needed.”