life as a

The role of a police detective

Question everything

As a detective you care. It’s a serious career choice. You understand that crime is a product of complex issues, often stretching through generations and controlling whole estates. 

Colleagues, local residents, other agencies and victims of crime all need you to get it right. If you know how to manage, investigate and stay focused, a detective role is for you. 

Detectives are focused, work well under pressure and respond quickly to new information with a determined, positive attitude. 

You have people relying on you, you lead by example, you stay calm, and make choices that have a real impact on people’s lives.


Day to day, you’ll manage cases, and the people involved. You are proactive, you see all the angles, and you respond quickly to an ever changing case load and operating environment. 

As a police detective you respond with authority and resilience to every problem. You know that your work means you encounter people in crisis and work collaboratively with multi agency teams. You act fast, and stay the course. You know change comes when you lead with empathy, act on intelligence and commit to a better future.

On the National Detective Programme, we’ll work closely with you to develop your skill set so you can communicate with vulnerable communities and individuals and get to the heart of transforming communities. 


Solve the problems facing society through a career as a detective.

As a police detective, the most serious crimes land on your desk.  You’re the key role responsible for bringing  justice to victims impacted by crime.  You need the resilience to overcome obstacles, the clarity to never take things at face value, and the ability to communicate with people from all walks of life and gain their trust.

Each case is unique, and often relies upon the quality of the evidence, the emotional state of the victims, your ability to persuade and influence, and persevere right up until the end.

We have recruited over 480 police detectives to date, across England and Wales.

You'll bring justice to victims impacted by serious crime.

Cases can be a lengthy process, and you’ll learn to maintain relationships and deal with setbacks caused by failures.

As a detective there is no room for assumptions. Being diligent and collecting evidence based on facts are all part of each line of enquiry you’ll follow.

You’ll work on some of society’s most challenging issues including child exploitation, sexual assault and murder. You’ll be driven by your personal mission of working to protect the victims of crime from future harm.  You’ll learn about humans, how they behave, and how they shape the fabric of society.



What we look for in a police detective

 Caroline Anderson | Detective Constable 

The National Detective Programme are looking for people who demonstrate the strengths and characteristics suited to the role of police detective. Detectives thrive under pressure, taking a positive attitude to overcome obstacles. They respond quickly to new information, methodological in their approach to solving complex problems. Detectives are able to form meaningful relationships with a variety of people, taking the time to see things from another perspective, adapting communication style to suit the audience.

You take ownership

You’ll be a credible authority, instilling confidence and trust in others through the quality of your knowledge, skills, presence and professionalism. 

You’ll show substantial resilience, working well under pressure in the face of change, with a determined and positive attitude to overcoming obstacles. You need to be able to bounce back quickly from difficult situations and setbacks. 

These may come from the public and the incidents you deal with but also internally e.g. resistance to change. You need to be persistent and stay focused on the outcomes you need to achieve. Going into the force, you enter as a member of staff who will be relied on to make decisions and provide guidance. However, this needs to be balanced with humility and a willingness to learn and act on feedback.

You are emotionally aware

You’ll be an empathic connector. You will be able to develop meaningful relationships with an extensive variety of people, allowing you to communicate and persuade effectively. You must be able to demonstrate a genuine interest in, and respect for other people’s opinions. 

Self-awareness and high levels of emotional control are also required to handle emotionally charged situations. Police officers work in extremely emotive environments and need to be able to understand other’s emotions and their own in order to build meaningful relationships and trust in the community.

You are collaborative

You’ll be a clear communicator, with an exemplary clear and effective style of communication, both verbal and written. This highly attentive attention to detail in communication is critical to several elements of the role including gathering statements, writing crime reports and preparing handover information.

You need to be able to present the outputs of your analysis in a clear, thorough and often persuasive way to a wide range of collaborators and stakeholders.

You’ll have to work with different partners and agencies to solve problems, including social services and local authorities.

You seek feedback, learn from your mistakes and reflect to improve and amend your future practices.

You deliver, support and inspire

You’ll be organised, manage your time highly effectively and deliver in all situations. You make a sustainable impact, leaving things better than you found them. You will be able to prove your ability to deliver results, often outside your comfort zone – you push yourself hard, using your initiative to get positive results. You have to assess risks quickly and effectively, using your judgement and be willing to take and own a decision based on this assessment. 

Things will happen on shift that can mean you suddenly have to respond to a crime, which could then take up the rest of your shift or week.

The workload is demanding and you’ll have to manage many conflicting priorities.

You analyse critically

You’ll notice what others don’t. You will have a methodical approach to solving multiple complex problems, considering all eventualities and risks. You must be curious, objective and willing to delve into data, pull out important points from across different information sources and weigh up options to solve crimes. 

You also need to think laterally as to how to overcome problems.

You take and own decisions independently without needing the input of others.

You are innovative and open-minded

You’ll be innovative and open-minded. You must be open to learning and feedback, always striving to improve and develop.

You need to be thorough and accurate in your role, and be able to spot errors or pick up on small details that might be useful. 

You must have a willingness to understand and learn about cultural differences and how to utilise this knowledge within your work.

With the ever-changing nature of crime, you will be at the forefront of creating and implementing innovative ways to tackle it; utilising new technology, methodology and research.

You are culturally aware

You’ll appreciate and understand that communities have differences within them, and therefore the individuals / groups that make up that community have varying needs.

In light of this, you will tailor your approach accordingly with the individuals / groups that you interact with, demonstrating your impartiality at all times, but ensuring you do your best to gain their trust. 

You will remain adaptable throughout the course of your remit as circumstances unfold in situations.

You are resilient

Regardless of the challenges you will face, you will remain confident throughout, staying calm and positive to provide the best service possible. You demonstrate determination to tackle situations facing you in role and within your community.  You recognise when you are placed in such a position and draw on your strengths to work through aspects affecting various aspects of your cases.

When things don’t go as planned, you take the time to understand your own emotions; look to find solutions; and subsequently drive your own self-development. Fundamentally, you will demonstrate the ability to bounce back quickly.

Your motivational alignment

You’ll show comprehensive awareness that Police Now’s mission is to make where we live safer, transform communities, turn people into allies, service the public and increase their confidence. You want to contribute to Police Now’s mission, go the extra mile and share thought through ideas on how you could make a contribution. 

You’ll be clear and focussed on joining the role and understand why you want this role over others.

Your written communication​

You’ll need to produce reports that are effectively structured, which follows set policing procedures and guidelines. You’ll present information in a logical manner and will have the ability to communicate in the written form using concise messages that are easy to understand.

Hear from our trainee police detectives

Never thought of yourself as a police detective? Want to know if you’d fit into our programme? Want to understand the day-to-day role? Curious about the kind of people who decide to become police detectives?

Police Now supports graduates from diverse backgrounds to be a success on the programme. Listen to some of our participants as they share their stories.

The skills I bring to my role as a detective

I want to become a leader

Reino - Police Now Detective
Reino Cronje | Detective Constable

Working as a police detective is a demanding but rewarding job. 

If you’re a university finalist or graduate who notices what others don’t, explore what’s needed to be successful in this role.

Before you apply, make sure you meet our eligibility criteria with our online guide.

Some of the key requirements you must meet include:

You cannot apply if you have previously attested and served as a police officer. However, you are eligible to apply if you are currently or have been a police cadet, special constable, PCSO or member of police staff for any force.

Beyond the programme

Graduation from a Police Now programme as a police detective is the start of a great career. What sets you apart is your investigative mindset, your ability to connect with people from all walks of life and gain their trust, and your critical thinking.

You notice what others don't and have the resilience to follow it through to the end.

Help and useful links


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Devon & Cornwall Police

Police Now | Devon & Cornwall Constabulary

Shaun Sawyer

Chief Constable

National Graduate Leadership Programme

Cohorts: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
No. of police officers enrolled: 8

National Detective Programme

Cohorts: —— —— —— —— 2019 2020
No. of police officers enrolled:

Case studies: