DI Kate Tomlinson
What made you want to become a detective?
Growing up I always loved to watch police dramas on TV and more so always loved a good murder mystery! I made the decision very young I wanted to join the police and was only just turned 21 when I joined. I knew very early on that I wanted to be a detective, although I loved the cut and thrust of being a uniformed officer, attending incidents, making arrests etc, I also loved interviewing, putting files together and managing investigations. I loved the idea of seeing a job through from start to finish and specifically the more interesting and more detailed investigations. I had barely 4 years’ service when I joined CID.
When I began CID aides were much sought after in those days and selection involved an interview process. For me to stand out I had a really good arrest record, I used to process a lot of prisoners, my files were really good. I also sought secondments to the proactive units. I worked hard but had a lot of fun along the way! During my probation I worked with CID for a few weeks, I worked hard and got to know people in there. There were a few dinosaurs back in the day but that didn’t put me off!
Which detective role did you go in to first?
I first worked in the reactive CID office (modern day response). I did a four week course and then five months with a tutor before being classed as qualified. Back in those days it was more along the lines of you passed if your face fitted. It wasn’t the more formalised process it is now, I didn’t have to produce a portfolio like you do now. In the early days we were still going to the pub at 10pm on a late shift! Things have very much changed now and quite right too!
I didn’t do loads as a DC because the force was very short of sergeants so I found myself being steered down the promotion route quite young in service however the draw to come back to being a detective was always there. As I didn’t have such a good grounding as a DC it wasn’t an easy road to get back in to CID. I eventually managed to get a job as a DS on the vehicle crime unit, I did this for 12 months before I managed to get a job as a DS in the main CID office where I worked for a couple of years. I did some temporary DI cover before moving to the Major Investigation Team for a couple of years back as a DS. This is where I really got the taste for what I do now. After that I got promoted again before working as a DI on the Public Protection Unit for four years and currently the Major Investigation Team.
What is it like being a detective?
I work in the Major Investigation Team, we predominantly investigate murders and as the SIO I manage those investigations. We also attend work place deaths, prisons deaths and sometimes manage other complex crimes depending on their nature.
In my current role I manage murder investigations, making decisions on how to progress the investigation. To me, this has got to be one of the best jobs in the force. It can be extremely challenging, as when a murder is first discovered there is so much to do in the first 24-48 hours depending on the circumstances, your head can be spinning, however there is nothing better than that buzz you get when that little nugget of evidence falls into place that either identifies your suspect or proves your case!
Balancing job and family life can be very difficult, I’m lucky as I have a very supportive husband however he also has a busy job and we have 7 year old twins, so balancing work with family life can put some real pressure on at times. I work at HQ which is at least 40-45 minutes from where I live on a good run so that’s an additional 1hr 30 minutes on top of my day and I have to collect the kids from after school club so there are sacrifices to be made. When a job comes in there is no work/life balance, it’s all work and no life, however when that initial rush is over there is the option to take some of that time back. When a job comes in and I’m at work I FaceTime the kids before bed every night and throughout the day if it’s a weekend. It’s not every week so the demands are certainly manageable.
I am very lucky as I have an excellent team who are all hard working and committed. They all enjoy this type of work as much as I do and they make coming into work a pleasure. They also make asking them to do difficult task easy by taking it all in their stride. I would definitely say they’re like a family but then the police in general are like that. Each team you work with are different, some are better than others but all of them are close.
What is some of your greatest achievements on the job?
The achievements can be as big or small as you like. I’ve got to be honest and say my achievements in my latest role have given me the biggest satisfaction. Sending Ian Naude to jail for 25 years has got to be up there, a police officer who so thoroughly betrayed everything we stand for deserved everything he got. It was a difficult investigation not just because of the nature of the work but because of the volume of the material that had to be reviewed and to get the result that we did was very emotional and rewarding for the family and for all the police officers involved. I personally feel invested in every job I do in my current role therefore every conviction means something.
Would you recommend this job to people?
To be a good detective, I believe the key qualities are:
- Tenacity - don’t always take no for an answer, push until you’re satisfied you’ve gone as far as you can go.
- Be creative - there’s more than one way to skin a cat and when one door closes, another opens, there’s more than one way to do something so find it.
- Look for the detail - the detail is what catches them out!
For any PCs aspiring to become a detective should be prepared to take on the hard stuff. Don’t always opt for the easy jobs, investigate crimes, volunteer, make yourself known to departments where you want to work, ask for advice, volunteer to become involved in their work where you can, show an interest!
I have had to go back in to uniform several times over my career and I feel this has hindered my progression as a detective, but then that was as a result of a decision I made to go for promotion early in my service. Others have been lucky and had opportunities where they have not had to do that which has meant they can progress quicker. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw and sometimes it’s the decisions you make. I feel I have a respect for uniformed colleagues and other departments as a result of the route I have taken, I’m not saying others don’t, but I have seen first-hand how difficult it is for uniformed colleagues sometimes and therefore when making decisions about investigations that affect uniformed colleagues I take into consideration the impact upon them.