Posts Tagged ‘Investigator’

How many times have you come across fictional lead detectives or Senior Investigating Officers (SIOs) with no idea where they came from?  It’s almost as if they were born a lead detective or joined the police to automatically become one.

I’m sure that you already know that in the UK,  it isn’t possible and never has been for a person to join the police as a detective, let alone a Senior Investigating Officer.  You’ll no doubt also know that it’s not possible for any old cop to get to those dizzy heights without the right amount and type of experience or training.

Now, if you are reading the nth book in a series, it may be that the SIO’s development and career progression are discussed in earlier book in the series but in all likelihood, there will be no mention of how they got to the pinnacle of their career or what they had to do to become the leader of a complex murder investigation.

The reason that you will come across such instances and maybe even be guilty of doing something similar yourself, is probably because not many authors happen to have a close relationship with a police officer who has years of experience of policing in the UK that they can call upon to answer accurately and reliably, their troubling questions about the police, their policies and procedures.  Maybe no-one has taken the time to explain to you or the writer of the story you are recalling, just what it takes to become an SIO and lead a murder investigation in the UK.

But never fear.  Help is at hand for those of you wanting to learn about what it takes for a police officer to become an SIO and thereby make your lead detective more credible and identify areas where conflict may stem or opportunities arise from.

A Writer’s Guide to Senior Police Investigators in the UK will take you through – A Writer's Guide to Senior Investigating Police Officers in the UK by [Robinson, Kevin N.]

  • What exactly a lead investigator and Senior Investigating Officer is
  • How they become one
  • What training they undertake
  • What 38 qualities and expectations they are expected to exhibit
  • You will find 27 specific ideas of how to take your stories forward and/or create conflict in them
  • There are also hyperlinks to 79 websites or documents that you may find useful in building up your understanding of what a Senior Investigating Officer needs to know and apply during a major investigation.

Not only will this book provide you with details of how a police officer can become a Senior Investigating Officer but it can help with plotting your novel and creating twists and conflict along the way.

It’s crammed full of expert knowledge and advice that you can use to captivate your readers with compelling dialogue and narrative.

Just a couple of the five-star reviews state:

I have never felt compelled to write a review before but in this case I felt it only right to do so. I am an ex-police officer in the middle of writing my first crime-related novel and I have to say how invaluable this book has been to me. I thought I was doing well with my descriptions of procedures and command structures but I cannot believe just how much the job has changed since I left.

If I hadn’t bought a copy of this (I also have the authors other titles) I would have made myself look like a rank amateur stuck somewhere in the 90’s. This book has saved me hours upon hours of research and helped me re-think certain parts of my book and for that alone, thank you Mr Robinson.

I only wish these books were available in paperback format. I’d have a copy of them as well. Call me old fashioned, but I like a book I can flick through and mark up where necessary and as much as Kindle comes close to a book experience it doesn’t really work quite as well with this kind of book in my opinion. That said, no other format allows for hyperlinking to other valuable resources so, swings and roundabouts.

All in all, a superb, densely packed no fluff resource that is worth far, far more than what it is being offered at.

Another great book from retired UK Police Inspector, Kevin N. Robinson! Packed full of useful info – really helpful for anyone with an interest in how the UK police force works, especially with regards to those investigating crime. A gem for writers & crime fiction authors. It’s the little details that make a story authentic and it’s great to have a source which collects all the necessary info, such as what an inspector would normally carry with him (would he have a forensic suit? gloves? what weapons? etc) – particularly for those less familiar with British police (who are quite different from the armed US law enforcement officers you see more commonly on TV!)

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You may have read about the 4 Professional Investigation Programme (PIP) levels and what constitutes Volumes and Priority crime along with who should be investigating these crime on my previous posts.  If you missed them, catch up here: 4 PIP Levels You Need to Know About and 16 Crimes That Don’t Need a Detective.

Now I’m going to describe what a Serious Crime is and who is likely to lead such an investigation so that you can get the right character investigating the right type of crime in your stories.

Serious crime falls into PIP Level 2 and is defined in section 93(4) of the Police Act 1997 as:

Conduct which

(a)  involves the use of violence, results in substantial financial gain or is conducted by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose or

(b) the offence or one of the offences is an offence for which a person who has attained the age of twenty-one and has no previous convictions could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more.

Schedule 1 to the Serious Crime Act 2007 lists a number of serious offences. Invariably these are offences which:

  • involve the use of violence, including the use of weapons and firearms
  • are sexual assaults
  • result in substantial financial gain
  • cause substantial financial loss to the victim
  • are conducted by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose.

The circumstances of each case will be considered and common sense applied as whether to categorise an incident as PIP level 2 crime.

The following offences may be categorised as serious and complex investigations:

  • arson (intention to endanger life, or reckless action which could endanger life)
  • abduction
  • aggravated burglary dwelling
  • aggravated burglary non-dwelling
  • arson high value or life endangered
  • blackmail
  • drug trafficking
  • death by dangerous driving
  • fraud and associated offences (over 80 hrs investigation time)
  • kidnapping (unless in major investigation category)
  • perverting justice
  • public order (racially motivated)
  • rape
  • robbery (firearms or actual bodily harm injury)
  • child sex offences
  • wounding (sections 18/20).

In most cases, a police constable will not be the sole or lead investigator in serious or complex crimes.  It is generally the role of a Detective Constable to investigate this level of crime, supervised by a Detective Sergeant.  The more complex the crime, the more detectives assigned to the investigation.  More than 5 detectives generally means more Detective Sergeants supervising and two or more Detective Sergeants will probably mean that a Detective Inspector leads the investigative team.

So allocating a Detective Chief Inspector or Detective Superintendent to one of these investigations may be a little bit of overkill.  Watch out for my next post to find out about just what they are likely to get involved in or if you can’t wait, you can always try to find the answers using your copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

If you caught my last post about PIP levels you may well be wondering what crimes are classed as volume and priority crimes but then again you may not be interested.  However, if you are writing the police into your stories, you better get the right type of cop dealing with the right type of crime.  If you missed my post about the PIP levels click HERE to catch up.

The category of volume and priority crime fall under PIP level 1 and are invariably investigated by a police constable as opposed to a detective constable.  That’s not to say that the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) may not get involved.  If they feel that the investigating constable needs mentoring or developmental support, they may provide that.  If there appear to be aggravating circumstance to the crime such as the victim is particularly vulnerable, they may intervene or take over the investigation.

Volume crime is that which is more common place than the more serious crimes.  Despite what comes across on TV and in novels, murder is not an everyday or even monthly occurrence in most areas of the country.  In fact, the average number of murders recorded by the police in England and Wales amounts to no more than around 700 per year.  That is less than two per day across the whole of those two countries.  Crimes such as theft, criminal damage and public order offences are part of the volume crime category.

Priority crimes are those that the individual police forces declare to be of sufficient seriousness to them and their community that action should be taken against them and their perpetrators.

Priority crimes may include robbery, burglary and vehicle-related criminality, but can also apply to criminal damage or assaults.

Offences categorised by the College of Policing as volume and priority investigations include:

  • arson (criminal damage with no threat to life)
  • burglary dwelling
  • burglary non-dwelling
  • cheque/credit card fraud
  • criminal damage
  • drugs possession offences
  • minor Firearms Act offences
  • going equipped for stealing
  • handling stolen goods
  • other fraud
  • public order
  • sexual assault (excluding sexual assault against children)
  • street robbery
  • theft from the person or motor vehicle
  • theft of motor vehicle
  • taking a vehicle without owner’s consent (including aggravated offences).

To find out what types of crime are considered to be “serious or complex” in the PIP Level 2 category, make sure you follow or subscribe to this blog or if you can’t wait, you could always seek out the answer in your very own copy of the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:

BPCD Cover

You may have already read of the seven things a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) should have in their “grab bag” but if you missed it, you can catch up with it by clicking HERE or the next 5 things they need to have handy click HERE.

As well as those first twelve items, here are five more that they are told to make sure that they should have in their “grab bag” for when they receive The Call that there has been a murder etc.

  1. Clipboard or similar armed with plenty of writing/drawing implements.
  2. Forensic suit/mask/gloves/overshoes.
  3. Vehicle full of fuel and ignition keys at the ready (or other suitable transport, or driver).
  4. Money/change for emergencies.
  5. The Amazon link to the SIOs’ Handbook in readily accessible place.

Make sure you subscribe to or follow this blog to hear more about SIOs

Or if you can’t wait, you could try to find the answer using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

You may have already read of the seven things a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) should have in their “grab bag” but if you missed it, you can catch up with it by clicking HERE.

As well as those first seven items, here are five more that they are told to make sure that they should have in their “grab bag” for when they receive The Call that there has been a murder etc.

  1. Essential documents such as the makings of a paper management system (which would include such things as list of actions raised, paper actions themselves, and major incident (MI) write-up sheets and message forms).
  2. Freshly prepared food/sandwiches (in the fridge) ready to go.
  3. Drink (e.g. cold drink or thermos flask).
  4. Street map (e.g. A–Z or satellite navigation system).
  5. Outdoor warm and waterproof clothing.

Make sure you subscribe to or follow this blog to hear more about SIOs

Or if you can’t wait, you could try to find the answer using the British Police and Crime Directory for Writers and Researchers or click on the picture below to buy your copy:BPCD Cover

Following the success of the Spring Crime Fiction – Making it Real weekend workshop, the Autumn workshop is now open for booking.

It will help writers of any genre bring their stories to life as they find out how real police investigations work and delegates will pick up hundreds of ideas for their next stories.

The workshop will run from 17th to 18th November 2012 (inclusive) at the Premier Inn, Glasshoughton, Castleford, West Yorkshire.

   

What the weekend is about!

The following are some (but not all) of the topics that time and delegate requirements permitting may be covered over the weekend –

  • The history and the future of the police.
  • How is a police force organised and structured?
  • What does policing look like across the U.K, internationally and who is involved?
  • What are the terms and conditions that an officer must work to and how are they trained?
  • What work do the police focus upon, how and why?
  • What are the main crime types and what do they mean?
  • What are some of the more serious offences investigated by the police and how?
  • How is information turned into intelligence and how is that used?
  • What types of profiling are there and how are they used?
  • What types of offenders are there and what makes them tick?
  • How is a crime scene analysed?
  • What forensic techniques are used and why?
  • What are the rules regarding arresting, detaining, interviewing and charging an offender?

Time will be allowed for delegates’ specific questions and to explore how their plots and characters may be developed or made more realistic.

The exact content of the course will be tailored to meet the needs of the delegates.

There will also be several handouts as well as post workshop support and guidance available to all attendees, which will include over 100 police advice and guidance documents.

Some of the feedback from the delegates on that Spring workshop includes

Barbara  – Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the course.

I wanted a general overview of the police and procedures which I think you covered very well. Even if you don’t use a lot of it in the writing, it is useful background to get an idea of how a whole police station would operate. The stuff on the Major incident teams and crime scenes etc was very useful. I guess writers are also interested in dialogue so discussing interviews etc was also helpful.  I also found the stuff on who certifies death, the role of the coroner etc helpful.  The stuff on serious criminal, like rapists was very good as was the discussion of forensic profilers.  Just skimmed through the CD and it will be an excellent resource for us.

We were quite a demanding audience and you handled the questions very well. I really did enjoy it. A big part as well is the other attendees and I got a lot out of talking to the others in break times.

Caroline  – Thanks for a terrific course and for your individual attention with my plot, really appreciated. A great weekend and I am now energised and armed to complete the book hopefully with my cop facts right.

CJ – I wanted to thank you for a very stimulating and informative weekend. I learnt a lot and especially valued having my specific questions all dealt with. Overall, it was a fun weekend and a great experience and I will recommend it to other crime writers.  I could tell you put a lot into organising everything for us and it paid off big time.

Gareth – I’d like to thanks you so much for an amazing weekend.  I felt so fortunate to meet you and so many wonderful people.  The course was very informative.  The main strength of the course was you.  You were clearly knowledgeable and presented the information in a friendly, easy to understand way, but, above all, your great sense of humour made it so much fun.

Ian – It was a great course thanks,

Jan – It was brilliant.  I’ve done over 20 OU courses and about 13 summer schools – and this has to be up there with the best of them.  I really enjoyed the whole thing.

It was exactly what I needed to convince myself that non-police personnel stand a chance of writing crime – both from the point of view of the information received (and thank you so much for the DVD, it’s excellent) and from being able to meet with published authors and non-published authors in a friendly and supportive atmosphere.  I thought it did exactly what it said on the tin – it explained the structure and routines and left me in a much better position to track down my own information, and to know what level of information I need to include.

It was obvious so much thought had gone into the whole weekend.  I also felt the tone was exactly right.  Serious subjects, but tackled in an intelligent and light-hearted way, which was just the right balance for me.  I’d be back like a shot for further courses

Linda  – Just a quick line to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated this weekend. I think you covered every question I thought I might ask and covered a good many I didn’t even know I needed to ask! You surpassed all my expectations of what might be got out of the sessions, and I think I will be referring back to the information on the DVD for a long time to come.

Lesley – Firstly thanks for the workshop, you obviously did a lot of hard work to produce it.  I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. I got a lot from it and learnt things I didn’t know. In fact I have created a new main character for my next book from those who are co-opted onto the enquiry (more later). T he DVD of information is an excellent resource.  Weekends like this are as much about talking to other people during the breaks and in the evening as about the workshop itself and we had plenty of time for that.

Maggie – You often don’t realise what you want to know until you know it and it provokes further questioning! I was open to consuming new knowledge that I could utilise along the way within my writing. I think I gained a new perspective through the course.  At the time I felt that being informed about the different uniforms was not necessary – in hindsight I feel that it was totally in context with the rest of the content once I had done the two days. It helps that you can take notes of thought provoking ideas rather than have to scribble everything that is said down and miss the overall aim/ambience.  During the course it was thought provoking and I am sure many of us have come away with some ideas for plot lines.  All in all I would definitely recommend this course to anyone considering it. Meeting the variety of people that were there was also interesting, some of us will definitely stay in touch and thus we are able to widen our network of contacts/writers/new friends.  10/10!

Paul – I enjoyed the weekend immensely and it was tremendous value for money. The extensive CD alone was worth the workshop fee and it contains everything the crime writer could wish for.  I think you provided a very good ‘walk through’ of what actual happens at the scene of a major crime and the different roles etc.  In conclusion it was an excellent experience

Sheila – I got loads from the course.  Lots of little gems will stay in my mind for further use.  I love anecdotes from people’s working lives, details that you will never get from a manual such as the spitting prisoner in a cage in a van.  The role play on tracing a wanted bod taught me how to think investigation.

Tom – I found the weekend most useful and the content and materials we subsequently received will prove valuable reference sources for crime writing. I got all the factual material I needed – and more. In fact I would suggest you were over-generous in how much info you released.

Wanda – I just want to say how much I enjoyed the weekend, and I certainly learnt a great deal. I am also delighted with the CD. You have been very generous with your knowledge, time and information and I am sure that I will now have a much better idea on how to proceed with my crime novel.

The Costs and Stuff

The cost of the weekend is £160.  Lunch and refreshments each day are included in the price.

Places are limited to ensure each delegate has plenty of individual support.  So to secure your place on the workshop by paying a £50 deposit a.s.a.p.

A number of double rooms are available at the hotel at a promotional rate of £58 for Friday and £63 for Saturday night.

The venue is located adjacent to one of the country’s top tourist attractions – Xscape and Junction 32 Factory Outlet just off the M62 motorway.

English: Xscape in Castleford, West Yorkshire

English: Xscape in Castleford, West Yorkshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Please feel free to pass information of this workshop to friends and colleagues and if you have any questions, please just get in touch – the.writer@hotmail.co.uk

The policing family already includes police officers, police support staff, Police Community Support Officers, Special Constables and volunteers.  It appears that family is soon to grow a little larger once West Midland and Surrey Police have completed their procurement process to find someone to outsource services to by 2013.

Brought to the public attention by the Guardian on 4th March 2012 is the news that the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) approves of this move to bring in outsiders to conduct criminal investigations, patrol neighbourhood and detain suspects.  They also suggest that all other forces in the country will follow to some degree in the coming years of tight budgets.

They report Greater Manchester Chief Constable (CC) Peter Fahy, who is also the ACPO Lead on Workforce Development, as saying that only “radical and fundamental” change would allow forces to cope with the “enormous challenge of the financial cuts” and maintain the protection of the public.  There were elements in a criminal investigation that did not need to be done by a police officer. (There is no reason why) others could not help protect the public and bring offenders to justice.”

They add the support of former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair, who says that “swaths of police tasks’ do not need to be carried out by fully trained officers. These include guarding prisoners, searching woodlands, preparing routine witness statements and providing intelligence analysis to murder inquiries.  “Many forces have employed their own non-police staff to undertake this sort of task but have been unable to do so in sufficient numbers because of the need to employ a fixed and ever increasing number of officers within a fixed budget.”

He also points out that the outsourcing “would allow the private sector to provide staff who can carry out routine and repetitive tasks at cheaper rates and, perhaps most intriguingly, to provide temporary access to skilled staff – such as murder inquiry teams – which can be hired for incidents that are rare in most forces but for which all forces must permanently retain a group of very expensive staff. This would then allow the chief constable, satisfied that he or she has commissioned these kind of services at a cheaper rate, to spend more of the budget on those parts of the service that require, because of their complexity, their impact on public safety or their centrality to the police mission, to be carried out by fully warranted officers,”

Scientologists peer out of the Church of Scien...

Image via Wikipedia

In an attempt to calm public concern, CC Fahy pointed out that private security staff were already patrolling public spaces and managing major public events, licensed by local authorities: “Private staff monitor CCTV covering public space, private companies transport prisoners to and from court and store detectives detain shoplifters.”

The intention is to ensure that highly trained and professional police officers were spending time on activities which require their skills, expertise and values. He added “While there are a number of tasks in a criminal investigation, such as gathering CCTV evidence or checking phone records, which do not necessarily need to be done by a police officer, the investigation itself would be overseen by a police officer in much the same way as a doctor oversees treatment of a patient although other healthcare professionals carry out particular tasks.”

However, not everyone is so agreeable to the proposals.

Bob Jones, Chair of the Finance Committee of the West Midlands Police Authority, was one of five members of the police authority who voted against the (privatisation) trial.

Lynne Owens, the Surrey Chief Constable ruled out the use of private firms to patrol neighbourhoods: “Any suggestion that a private sector company will patrol the streets of Surrey is simply nonsense. It would be no more acceptable to the public than it would be to me.”

The Police Federation warned that it was “an extremely dangerous road to take”.

But on the other hand, a Home Office spokesman said: “We are determined to do anything that will help the police to become more efficient and better able to fight crime. We have been very open in our support for the police in taking these decisions.”  So it will probably happen regardless of any fears people may have.

The question is, how will this affect your novel.  It could in theory get some private individual, with no current police training or authority to get deeply involved in some complex and/or nasty crime and investigation.  Could that someone be another Miss Marples?

If the doctor analogy quoted by CC Fahy were to follow along the same lines though, would nurses be involved in the more complex issues that supposedly remain the responsibility of the GP and save a village or small town from some life threatening virus?

Just as the Crime Writing Association’s “Murder Squad”

tour the country providing advice to aspiring writers of crime fiction, could there be a private Murder Squad brought in by the local police force to handle their first murder in 30 years (I’m not sure where that may be as every force has them more frequently than that)?

The choice is yours. You may well manage to get one of your novice/private detectives into real policing activities in the not so distant future.  How come they don’t feature in science fiction or do they?

Don’t forget to book your place on the Crime Fiction – Making it Real weekend workshop March 2012

Kent Police Crime Scene

Image by kenjonbro via Flickr

Are you seeking crime writing inspiration, looking for your investigative muse or your policing Mo Jo?

  • Have you ever come up with a story-line only to wonder if it would work the way you would expect it to?
  • Not sure how the police really work?
  • Ever wondered if your killer really can get away scot free?
  • Want to know how a real police investigation works?
  • Having problems with your police procedures?

If you are, look no further. Help is at hand.  With 30 years police experience I can tell you how it really is and just where you can get your plot, twists and turns along with creative ideas to get your novel going or restarted.

Inspiration, ideas, knowledge, guidance and support are what I can offer you so send me your questions, your problems and let’s see what you and I can do.