Detective Academy: Paola Fantini, Devon and Cornwall Police
National Detective Programme 2022
The programme begins with a 14-week training academy before participants are deployed into their respective police forces to continue the two-year programme.
Paola, who will join Devon and Cornwall Police via the programme, is sharing her experiences of the academy as she develops the knowledge and skills required to support her community as a detective constable.
Police Now’s National Detective Programme is designed to equip participants with the core policing and leadership skills required in modern investigative work. Once deployed into their forces, participants play an integral part in solving crimes while developing their leadership, communication and problem-solving skills.
Paola Fantini, Trainee Detective Constable on Police Now's National Detective Programme
“I grew up in a small town in Italy, about 23km outside of Milan, and left home when I was 17 to move to Canada. I was there about 5 months and taught drama to children at a local school before moving to the UK for my undergraduate degree.
“I graduated last summer from the University of York with a degree in Sociology and Criminology. Although I studied Criminology, it was really my volunteering work and extra-curricular activities which made me realise I wanted to pursue a career as a detective.
“I volunteered for a few months for a non-profit called Refugee Action York, which supports refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from within and around the City of York. I contributed by providing childcare support while parents were having English lessons and being supported in their employment searches. I enjoyed meeting such a range of people and wanted to have a career after graduating which would allow me to keep supporting people within the community.
“In my second year I took part in a project with the ‘Transform Society’, which looked at the realities of knife crime and how it impacts people within the community. In groups, we researched ways that knife crime could be reduced in certain areas and came up with action plans for tackling the problem. The winning group presented their ideas to the Home Office, unfortunately my group didn’t win but we were the runners up!
“I found out about the National Detective Programme through the Transform Society, which brings together the social transformation programmes Police Now, Teach First, Unlocked and Frontline, to tackle problems of social inequality.
“The programme immediately appealed to me because I could see how it would allow me to apply my interests in a practical way. I also liked Police Now’s focus on diversity and inclusion. As an international student and as a woman I was a bit worried about applying to the service and doubted my ability to excel within the police. I think my family originally shared these concerns but I am so glad I pushed through those doubts and applied to the programme, and I am determined to prove myself. I know my family are proud of me for pursuing a career where I can really make a difference.
“It sounds like it will be a very intense training academy but I am always looking for ways to push myself and I am excited for the opportunity to develop new skills. I can’t wait to meet my colleagues in Devon and Cornwall Police and I am hoping they will indulge my Italian passion for food and show me the best places in Torquay to eat!”
“The first week of academy training was very intense and I initially worried that I wasn’t excelling enough in the high-pressure environment. However, the fast pace of the workload allowed me to stop overthinking and just focus on the tasks at hand. I soon discovered that everyone was struggling with something and that no one is perfect, and this actually helped me to focus on my own performance. I found that I have been very motivated to keep improving myself and reach the new goals set throughout the week
“We have been through a range of training sessions including learning how to use police radios, investigative interviewing, officer safety training, first aid training, wellbeing and resilience, anti-racism training, giving evidence in court and preparing for our National Investigators’ Exam. Our assessments were on stop and search, arresting and presenting a suspect to custody, and taking witness statements.
“Learning how to arrest and present to custody was a unique experience which changed my understanding in many ways, as before the academy I’d only seen fictional portrayals on TV. It is a lot more dynamic and far less mechanical and detached than they show on TV. The same applied to our stop and search session, where I practiced understanding individuals and learning how to put people at ease in an uncomfortable situation.
“We practiced these procedures as role-plays, which is not a method of learning I had used before. It was awkward at first but my peers really supported me through the process and offered very useful advice and feedback.
“I particularly enjoyed our session on police radios, as I was curious and excited to use new equipment and learn how the communication lines between police officers and the control rooms work. Officer safety training and first aid training were also really interesting; learning how you can save a person’s life is daunting but so rewarding.
“I already feel much more confident than I was on day one. My voice is more decisive and my words flow better now. I have been working very hard on my policing presence, learning how to present myself professionally and hold myself to the highest standards expected of a police officer. This is one of the most important elements to consider when working within a policing environment because it defines how you are perceived not only by your colleagues but by the public too, which helps you build trust in your communities.
“My knowledge and skills have improved so much in just a few weeks. There is a large workload and a lot to remember but if I tackle it day by day, I feel like I can achieve a lot and really push myself to be the best I can be.”
“We recently spent three days undertaking field training on our force Response teams, as part of our Police Now academy training. This is the team that responds to 999 calls, allowing us to gain direct experience on the policing frontline early on in our training and apply some of the things we’d already learnt at academy.
“Field training was definitely the most intense experience of my life, but I was supported and supervised by my tutor constable and experienced force colleagues. I learnt a lot from observing my colleagues and how they handled situations, but the experience wasn’t just a ‘ride along’, I was really involved in the processes too.
“We responded to a lot of different situations over the three days and attended some memorable incidents. My first response job was a suspected theft and I also attended domestic abuse incidents and calls relating to mental health crises. My tutor and I also had the important job of searching for a missing person in the area.
“This was my first real experience of interacting with the public as an officer, which was a bit surreal. At times I found it stressful, but it was also very rewarding because it was the first time I was given the opportunity to make a change in the community and help vulnerable people.
“Field training was tough and the shifts were long, but it made me realise why I like this job and why I want to continue pursuing this career. I find that I still have a lot of work to do in building my confidence, but I know this will come with time. In the meantime, I have my Police Now and force colleagues to support me.
“I am now back at academy and focusing on revising for my upcoming National Investigators’ Exam and looking forward to our next field training experience, which will be within the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) – where detectives work on complex investigations to support victims of crime in the community.”
“I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of our National Detective Programme academy today. We had a closing ceremony this afternoon, which included an address from Assistant Chief Constable Sharn Basra of Bedfordshire Police.
The last few weeks have been just as demanding and interesting as the rest of academy, I had several assessments and sat my National Investigators’ Exam after many hours of revision. We also attended a networking event with a number of organisations across the policing and charity sectors, so we could get to know some of the partners we might be working with and begin building up our contacts for multi-agency work.
The highlight though was completing field training in Devon and Cornwall Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Completing five consecutive shifts in CID was very tiring but it certainly was one of the most exciting weeks so far. During the week I attended two crime scenes and sat as a second (the supporting officer) in a suspect interview for a Grievous Bodily Harm case. I also helped take a statement from a victim of robbery in a ‘Visually Recorded Interview’, which was all about making the victim feel comfortable after a traumatic incident whilst obtaining the key information that would help us with the investigation.
I also made an arrest, I felt a bit nervous but I do think it was the peak of my performance that week. Making an arrest in a real-life situation rather than a classroom makes you fully appreciate the consequences and repercussions that it can have on a person’s life, which really puts things into perspective.
I now have a week of rest before I begin my permanent role in Devon and Cornwall Police and continue the rest of my journey on Police Now’s National Detective Programme. It’s been an exciting journey from Italy, to Canada, to the University of York and finally to Police Now. I feel very excited and a little bit nervous to have reached this point, but I am thrilled to be landing in force soon where I can start to make a real difference to people’s lives as a detective constable.”