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Country feels with city crimes: What it’s like being a police detective in Bristol’s Bridgewater ward

25 Jan 2023, 13:33

Elisabeth Dane is a Detective Constable in the Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID). She spoke to us about completing Police Now’s two-year National Detective Programme, which is designed to train graduates to become leaders on the policing frontline. If you’ve got the determination and grit, there are few careers more rewarding.

Police Detective via Police Now programme

Detective Elisabeth Dane swapped city lights and backpacking around Asia for a West Country beat, but her policing job is anything but dull.

If you thought rural policing amounted to bored kids spray painting graffiti on bus stops or illegal fly tippers ruining the countryside view, it’s time for a rethink. Since Elisabeth Dane started working in the Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in the West Country she’s had her eyes open to the dark side of crime. Internet crime, child abuse and busting ‘county lines’ drug rings causing misery and costing millions – these are all part of Elisabeth’s standard workload. There’s plenty of high-level detective work involved and more than enough to keep her – and her very active brain – busy. Working in the Bridgewater area of Bristol is challenging but the reward is wonderful with a vast array of complex crimes which keep the job interesting.

Deciding to join the Police

When she first considered applying for a job as a police officer Elisabeth realised she was best suited to an investigative role. As a graduate (having completed an English degree at the University of Birmingham), fresh from travelling around the world, it felt like the mental challenge she had been seeking.

‘Detective just sounded like the right balance, helping the public with serious investigations, putting dangerous people in prison and investigating issues that impact us all,’ she explains enthusiastically. Police Now ’s National Detective Programme was daunting at first, and Elisabeth confesses initially she didn’t think she could offer enough to the force.

‘If I could go back and give myself some advice it would be to be more confident and positive about the things I bring to the role,’ she says. Experience of different backgrounds and a personality that fitted the role stood her in good stead during the application process and she advises applicants: ‘Be ready to sell yourself.’

It can be a tough gig...

The level of learning on the programme was a challenge for Elizabeth, but her hard work paid off.

‘You spend a vast amount of time trying to process things, learning to be a police officer, passing the National Investigators’ Exam (which is really not a simple exam!) and learning to be a detective,’ she says. Occasionally she wondered if she had what it takes to support the most vulnerable people and investigate the most complex of crimes, but senior colleagues’ experience and encouragement gave her perspective and allowed her to banish her self-doubt.

‘I have come to realise that I am not going to know everything, I am not going to have dealt with all scenarios and it is ok to ask for help if I don’t know,’ she says. The support from her very own Police Now Performance and Development Coach throughout her two years, also meant she received continued professional development through ongoing skills sessions and one-to-one coaching.

… but the rewards are plenty!

‘The most enjoyable aspect is definitely seeing a case all the way through – from coming in to the office, to interviewing the suspect, getting it to trial and securing a conviction by a jury. It makes it all worth it,’ says Elisabeth. ‘I have learnt how to manage stress, multiple crimes and multiple enquiries – as well as managing people – and my multitasking skills are through the roof! But also I think this job humbles me, so I have learnt to make sure I always look for a balance rather than doom and gloom.’

Kicking preconceptions into touch

Besides thinking she would be dealing with retired people’s problems, Elisabeth also confesses she thought her new work colleagues would mostly be old fogeys.

‘The reality is I work with a diverse bunch of people across a wide age range and we all offer something different while working really well together,’ says Elisabeth. ‘However, I have to say the amount of form filling and case paperwork preconception is based on reality!’

What happens after the Police Now programme?

Elisabeth’s interests led to her completing a number of courses, such as SSAIDP (Specialist Sexual Assault Investigators Development Programme) and SCAIDP (Specialist Child Abuse Investigators Development Programme), which have also taken her to a DC position on a new internet child abuse team (ICAT), something she intends pursuing further still. Her qualifications have led to her being awarded both financial and development/learning bonuses.

’I am also now a tutor and am currently supporting two students on a path through to becoming a DC. I remember how I felt when I first joined and there is a lot of support for them from within the team,’ she says.

City v country living

‘It might be a cliché but I enjoy the countryside and the lifestyle, plus being near the coast works for me for the things I like doing in my spare time,’ says Elisabeth. ‘As Bristol is only a 40-minute train ride away I am always near decent amenities and nights out. Taunton has a great mix of shopping and places to eat.’

Avon and Somerset Police offers Elisabeth a great range of cultures, cities, towns, coasts and country.

‘It is a diverse, big enough force to have most of the resources we need but it does not feel like you’re just a number. It is definitely a force looking at innovation and more forward-thinking approaches to dealing with crime and supporting its staff,’ she says. We have all the same crimes and problems as a city, but with green fields and beaches. Plus the main station down here in Bridgewater is, in my opinion, one of the best in the force.’

Advice for Police Now applicants

Elisabeth says a passion for helping people and making a difference is key to success and joining Police Now brings with it a massive learning curve and expectation of hard work.

‘It can be hard to find balance but this job opens doors and offers opportunities in a range of careers. You will push yourself mentally and be amazed about how much you can learn and develop. Keep a positive mindset and always ask for help when you need it.’

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