DI Sarah Oliver
What made you want to become a detective?
Whilst I was at university my dad retired from the fire service. During his leaving speech he said that throughout his thirty years of service there had never been a day when he doubted the value of what he did. Until that point I had planned on going into business and just doing a job about money. His speech made me re-think what work and a career should be about and that led to me joining the police.
I quickly found that I preferred investigating crime to the road traffic and general police duties but I still only thought that I would stay for about five years and then I’d move on. What I didn’t realise is just how varied and interesting it would be. So I’ve now completed thirty years and it’s my turn to think about retiring and I can also say that I’ve never doubted the value of what I do.
Which detective role did you go in to first?
My first role as a detective was in Runcorn as a reactive Criminal Investigation Department (CID) detective. The camaraderie we had in that office is still something I look back on with great fondness and I know still exists today. Since then I’ve worked across the force as a Detective Constable, Sergeant and I’m now Detective Inspector in homicide and major crime. There is nothing like being the officer in the case or being part of the case which deals with these types of cases.
I’ve worked in response CID, public protection and major crime investigations. Without doubt every investigation has had its challenges, but with that comes the reward – sometimes that is a sentence of thirty years but on other occasions it has just being able to tell someone who was abused as a child that they are believed and they can move on with their lives.
What is it like being a detective?
Being a detective is about having real pride in what you do and the standard to which you do it. It is about being thorough and paying attention to every detail. As DI in homicide I rely upon a team who I can ask to do something and know that they will do it and that they will do it well. It’s about having a real interest in knowing exactly what happened, when, how, who was involved and why. There is a genuine credibility to being a detective and I think that is as true today as it was when I first applied for CID 25 years ago. Every team I’ve been a part of has been supportive, helpful and driven to ensure that this credibility remains as strong as ever.
What is some of your greatest achievements on the job?
There are obvious cases – the conviction of Barry Bennell for sexual abuse of boys he was football coach for during the 1980’s & 1990’s: the conviction of Daniel Shovelton for the murder of Mark Bradbury in Warrington. Both made headlines and received substantial sentences (30 years and 24 years imprisonment respectively).
But there are other cases which haven’t received headline sentences but nevertheless really supported the victims and their families through the worst times of their lives – an old man who was randomly beaten up by a drunk who called at his address - and needed help being re-homed such was the emotional impact of that crime upon him; a woman who had been assaulted by her husband and was so fearful that she had fled whilst he was out buying a packet of cigarettes – she had nothing with her but the clothes she was wearing. Those investigations led to short custodial sentences and didn’t make the evening news but for the victims they were a lifetime of release and the most rewarding to investigate.
Would you recommend this job to people?
I would definitely recommend the role of a detective - the prevention and detection of crime is what policing is all about. Being a detective is about dealing with the serious and complex crime - the more difficult it is, the more rewarding it can be. I’ve always stayed in detective roles and when I assess candidates for roles on my teams these days I’m still looking for those individuals who care and show that they care. People who take things on and see them through, because this is all about the commitment and drive to stay the course.
Some investigations can take months or years to progress. You’ll have to juggle - work, home, personal and professional commitments. There’ll be times when things aren’t going your way and there’s so much to do and so little time but overall I can guarantee a detective has a job like no other. Whenever you are asked ‘what do you do’ and your reply is ‘I’m a detective’ the response will always be ‘wow’ ….