Detectives are always police officers, aren’t they?

Detectives in the UK are part of the police force. They have to have served a term on the beat before moving into CID. It is probably the same in most countries. How else could it be?

Other detectives exist

Private detectives have been around for a long time. The famous Sherlock Holmes was one, but he was fictitious. However. they did exist in real life. The Pinkerton Detective Agency in the USA was probably the first of its kind, established in the 19th century. Then there are the amateurs, such as Miss Marple and my very own Frank Hill in the series Accounting for Murder. OK so they are fictitious too, but people have always investigated crimes and could not necessarily rely on the police. You might argue that MI5 and other secret services do a lot of detective work. Of course, I can’t go into detail or they’d have to silence me.

The cover of Accounting for Murder: New Money. Amateur detectives solve a murder when the police get it wrong.

Amateur detectives solve a murder when the police get it wrong.

Why change things?

Some say we should consider separating the CID from the rest of the police in order to recruit people who could make good detectives but would not want to be police officers. These could include people like me, as I have written before. Like most writers of murder mysteries, I have an enquiring mind and the ability to spot inconsistencies but I would be useless at many aspects of police work which are just as important as solving mysteries.

Does it matter?

Several reports have criticised the police for corruption, misogyny and racism, as I have discussed previously. But many convictions have been overturned for various other reasons, including simply bad detective work. Officers have sometimes concentrated on too few lines of enquiry or were too determined to convict the one suspect they had found. Perhaps people recruited from different backgrounds could have done better. People who would not have lasted long on the beat.