Posted on Friday 17 February 2023
Meet Temporary Detective Inspector Liam Robertson – he joined Durham Constabulary in 2009 as a PCSO before becoming a police officer in 2012. He’s worked in various different teams across Darlington throughout his career, and now leads a team of detectives in CID.
Before starting his career with Durham Constabulary, Liam completed an LLB law degree with a view to becoming a solicitor. It was during his time spent working in a bar to earn extra money while studying for a postgraduate diploma that he signed up to become a volunteer special constable, and has never looked back.
We caught up with him to ask him a few questions about his career, and what advice he would give to those thinking of applying for our Detective Constable Degree Holders Entry Programme…
Have you always wanted to be a police officer?
Growing up I actually had no intention or any desire to join the police. I had considered various career paths, including joining the RAF, doing a joinery apprenticeship, being a rock superstar, and ultimately went on to study law at university with a view to becoming a solicitor.
My father-in-law served with Durham Constabulary and it was through him I gained an insight into what the police do. He suggested that becoming a special constable would be good for my CV and so I applied and was successful. Just as I had completed my special constable training the opportunity to apply to be a PCSO arose, and I decided to alter career paths. After a successful application I worked for almost three years as a PCSO in the Cockerton area of Darlington.
Why did you choose Durham Constabulary?
It’s the local force serving the area I grew up in with a good reputation.
Can you remember your first shift?
I have a load of great memories from the job. When you start you have expectations of all the really exciting stuff you’re going to be doing around drugs and robberies etc. Unfortunately, my first arrest was disappointingly for the theft of a sandwich from Greggs. My second arrest was catching a career burglar in possession of a load of stolen Christmas presents.
I still wish I hadn’t seen that bloke with his baguette!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Moving into CID I think the thing that attracts me most to working as a detective is the puzzle element of solving crime. Trying to work out who the suspect is from the information you can gather and making sure you can evidence who is responsible for the crime by analysing information carefully and drawing links.
I have a real passion for interviewing, I think it’s a great skill that when used effectively can be one of the most important parts of a police investigation. You’ll have certain information that you know links a suspect to a crime and it’s a bit like verbal chess, asking the right questions to make sure that when you present the evidence there’s no room for manoeuvre.
What do you least enjoy?
I think it’s a sad reflection of society that in the police we will often deal with the same 1-2% of the population repeatedly. This is often a revolving door cycle of drug / alcohol dependency and crime which appears to be really difficult to break. It can be heart-breaking to see the same faces being arrested repeatedly through an inability to break addiction cycles or extricate themselves from damaging peer groups.
Does the job fit around your family situation?
I’m a husband and father, so juggling shifts can be difficult but fortunately we have family close by who are invaluable to us and regularly help with our childcare. However, there are cases where for one reason or another we need flexibility to be able to make things work. Durham Constabulary is really helpful in that respect, and I’ve always found my own supervisors will go out of their way to make arrangements to allow this flexibility where staffing and the needs of the department can allow.
Working within CID there is some expectation of working overtime. When a fast-paced investigation is taking place and we have limited time to deal with a suspect under arrest, it’s often not possible to simply walk out of the office on time. It’s one of the things that keeps the job interesting, but you definitely need your family’s support and understanding.
What would you say to potential candidates who might want to apply?
It’s a job like no other so you won’t really know if it’s for you until you apply and do it. However, you do need to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons – you won’t get rich in the police, but you will get a lot of satisfaction from serving and helping other people.
It’s difficult at times and there are definitely cases you will work on that are uncomfortable and distressing but the outcomes of safeguarding vulnerable people or getting suspects convicted make it worthwhile. Every day is different and unexpected – don’t expect routine.
Don’t ignore the little things – not every case can be built on fantastic and damning evidence such as blood being left at the scene. The fine grain detail provided in victim or witness statements can be just as important about what was said or heard and what people saw.
Understand the victim and suspect of the crime. Recovering their stolen property may be more important that prosecuting the person responsible. Putting someone in prison isn’t necessarily the right outcome – people are complicated and some just need help or pointing in the right direction.
Sum up your role in three words
Puzzle solving specialist.
Has Liam’s story inspired you?
We are currently taking applications from degree-holders for the Detective Constable Degree Holders Entry Programme.
To find out more, visit https://tinyurl.com/3e53ayh2