Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work in the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit (PVPU)? What are the biggest challenges and rewards? What does a typical day involve?
If you are interested in knowing more then read the insight below into what it means to be part of the Unit from those who work there: Detective Sergeant (DS) Steve Littlewood and Detective Constable (DC) Joanna Durham.
DS Steve Littlewood
Steve joined Humberside Police 14 years ago as a PSCO and then served as an officer in West Yorkshire for 12 years before transferring back in 2015. Having worked as a DS in the PVPU for the last year, Steve tells us why he thinks he has the best job in the force.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED WITH THE PVPU?
I had been a DS in volume crime for four years and had worked in child protection in West Yorkshire and really enjoyed the work. So I guess the bug for working in specialism started there and when I saw the opportunity to apply for the DS role in the PVPU I went for it.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO?
The people I work with are some of the most determined and committed detectives I know. So to get to work and lead them every day is the biggest reward of the job. They deal with some of the most serious crimes and my job is to ensure they have the right resources and skills, as well as making sure the personal impact on them is mitigated. When my team carries out a serious enquiry I am often operating as SIO, setting direction and policy and from a professional perspective this high risk, serious and complex work has helped me develop considerably.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL DAY FOR YOU?
Depending on the live work it will include working with colleagues to set priorities around workload, suspect management and welfare. There is a lot of work with partner agencies and direct contact with CPS. Personally I like to get to scenes, go in to interviews with staff and be involved in the investigation. I’ve found that since I’ve been in the PVPU I’ve managed to do this a lot more and I feel like an actual detective again.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME A DETECTIVE?
Morse! Not really… I like to see a job through and see villains put in prison. I like to go underneath the scene tape not stand outside it, talk to the suspect in interview and know what the victim is saying. For me it’s about piecing it all together, seeing the job through to conviction and knowing the difference you make for the victim.
THE WORK IN PVP IS OBVIOUSLY CHALLENGING, WHY WOULD YOU RECOMMEND WORKING WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT?
Because of the challenge! Working in this department has challenged my professional practice and given me a much wider understanding of investigation than I had previously. I have worked in volume crime, robbery, burglary and homicide and this is the most challenging and rewarding role I’ve ever had. The rewards of the large sentences we get, the victims who are overwhelmed with the result and knowing as a team we have done the hard miles ourselves – it’s massive.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST REWARDS OF YOUR JOB?
The rewards are seeing the team working together, seeing staff developing and watching the genuine commitment to the work. I’m personally overwhelmed by the hard graft staff put in.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN YOUR JOB?
The number of detectives we have to do the work means it sometimes feels like we are swimming against the tide. Especially with the size of the jobs we deal with, which sometimes take years to come to fruition. But when we get across the line with the small number of staff we do have, you get a real sense of team work and satisfaction.
WHAT SPECIAL QUALITIES DO YOU NEED TO WORK IN THE PVPU?
You need to be confident and thorough. There are some big decisions to make at times and the thoroughness of your investigation and the quality of the information you based your decisions on is key. You need to care and I think you have to be passionate about investigating. We deal with victims of crime who have often been through the worst experience you can imagine and they can at times be timid in engaging with the criminal justice process. Often it is the determination of the investigator which makes the difference in the investigation.
WHAT DO YOU MOST LIKE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I can’t single one thing out because it is genuinely the best job I’ve had in 12 years of service.
DC Joanna Durham
Joanna joined Humberside Police in 2003 as a police officer. Three and a half years later she joined the Protecting Vulnerable People Unit (PVPU), or as it was then called, the Public Protection Unit, as a VWO (Vulnerable Witness Officer).
Now in her twelfth year with PVPU, Jo shares the highs and lows and tells us what it’s really like to work in the team.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME A DETECTIVE?
I’d often have a really good job and I’d work so hard on it, and then have to hand it over to a colleague who would go to court and get good results for it and I wanted a piece of that.
As a detective you get to see a case all the way through. It’s so satisfying.
WHY IS WORKING AS A DETECTIVE IN THE PVPU DIFFERENT FROM OTHER DETECTIVE ROLES?
I deal with a lot of children and when they ask me what I do, I get to tell them I have a really important job. That it’s my job to make sure children are happy and safe. I often meet them on the worst day of their lives and when they trust me to help them it’s so rewarding. The work I do really does make a difference to their lives.
Getting a good result at the end can be life changing for the victim and the nature of the cases can attract the higher sentences at court, which is a great feeling.
CAN ANYONE WORK IN THE PVPU?
It takes a certain type of person to be a police officer, but it takes that little bit more to be one in the PVPU.
You need to be that little bit more caring, that little bit more sensitive, have that little bit more tact, and be approachable in a whole different way.
You are dealing with people who have been through the worst experience of their life in some cases. Then you have to deal with the suspect and listen to their side of the story without judgement, intimidation or any pre-conceived ideas and attitudes. You have to be a good communicator to get the best evidence form the both sides.
I personally love the psychology of it, learning how people communicate best, and being able to adapt to get to the truth. It can be tough but extremely rewarding. You’ve got to want to do this job.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE?
Workloads can be really tough. The amount of work involved in each case is huge and it comes with the types of cases you deal with. You also have to work closely with other partners, such as schools, the health service and social services. A lot of information is required to get a case to court, so the detective work is extensive.
Victims also need a lot of support because of what they’ve gone through. We deal with a really diverse range of people – from new-borns to the elderly, different religions and nationalities as well as various vulnerabilities.
It can be a real challenge finding the best way to communicate with them to get the best evidence. But when you do get that result you’ve worked so hard for and you change a victim’s life, it’s all worth it.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT HUMBERSIDE THAT MAKES YOU ENJOY WORKING AS A PVP DETECTIVE?
I always knew I wanted to be a police officer and Humberside is my home force so I waited for the opportunity to come up here and applied. It’s so rewarding, knowing that the work you do, makes a difference on the place you live and love. Humberside is such a diverse area geographically, you have the added challenge of the city vs. rural villages.
More than that though, Humberside is a smaller, family orientated force. I think it feels like home for anyone who works here or joins.
We currently have detective opportunities in the PVPU.
If you're interested in taking on this challenging but rewarding opportunity then please or contact HR Manager Michelle Webster via email.
You can also read more about the Detective Sergeant opportunity on our website.