e The Monday Interview - "So, what's it really like working as a...police force ID Unit manager?" :: Momentum Careers Advice

The Monday Interview - "So, what's it really like working as a...police force ID Unit manager?"

police line up

Welcome to this week’s ‘The Monday Interview’.

As a careers adviser, this week’s interview has sparked an interest in me for a number of reasons. Think back to when you were at school. What career ambitions did you have? Teacher? (maybe). Lawyer? (perhaps). Accountant? (possibly). The person that organises the ID line-ups for a police force? (nope - I thought not).

One of my professional frustrations is just how unimaginative and limited people (and young people in particular) can be about career choice. There are tens of thousands of occupations out there but there are handful that come up time and time again and seem to dominate career discussions. It doesn’t relate to the real world and the huge variety of interesting jobs that people find themselves in, and I find myself constantly telling clients to broaden their career horizons and to try and think beyond just the obvious choices. My issue here isn’t that we don’t want people to become teachers, lawyers, accountants etc but that we don’t want them to become them purely because they can’t think of alternatives. Similarly, I’m not suggesting that everyone becomes a ID Unit Manager (the ‘correct’ name for the job in this weeks interview) but just that it is a brilliant example of one of the many interesting careers out there that people find themselves in but that never come up in career planning discussions.

The other reason why this particular interview is so interesting to me is because I have witnessed over the last decade, what can only be described as a meteoric rise of young people wanting to get involved in criminology-related work. For example, I recently covered an interview with a forensic scientist in this blog series, and I did so because I received a lot of requests from people saying it was an occupation they were interested in hearing more about. I’ve made my views clear before - the media has a lot to answer for in all this - but still, the demand is out there and so I aim to deliver. Criminology is of interest to lots of young people today but the forensic science job market is small. People need to be aware of the other jobs that exist in the same or related industries, that also give that exposure to the working world of crime and justice, and this interview gives a great case study.

‘Tallulah’ (her choice, not mine!) as she wishes to be identified, has been working as a civilian in the police force for a number of years now. In the interview below she talks about how her current role as an ID Unit Manager makes great use of her communication and administrative skills, whilst giving a great general account of how her career has developed, and where she would ideally like it to go I the future.

Enjoy it. I certainly did.

So, briefly, what is your job?

“I am an Identification Unit Manager for a local police force. This involves filming suspects in custody and compiling ID parades on a DVD. We do this by selecting volunteer images who look similar to the suspect from a database containing 30,000 faces. We then show the finished ID Parade to victims and witnesses under controlled conditions (filming the procedure so the process is completely transparent & fair)”.

How did you get into it?

“I started temping with the police in 2006 in the Domestic Abuse Unit & gradually gained experience in a number of other departments including the Crime Desk and was then an E-fit operator for 2 years. These jobs gave me a lot of useful skills necessary to carry out my current role. I originally joined the police with a view to becoming a police officer, however I have now decided this is not the path I want to follow & much prefer being a civilian!”

Describe a typical day.

“I arrive at work at about 7.30am and check my emails & internal post to see if I have any new job requests. I then look at who we have in custody to see if they may need to take part in identification procedures. If I have to compile an ID parade, an identification booklet needs to be completed & served on the suspect. This details the description given by witnesses, circumstances of the offence, why the person is a suspect, any warning markers for the person & the general appearance of the suspect. Once I am in receipt of this paperwork, the image capture can take place. First I will film the suspect doing a series of head movements. I will then quality assure the film to check it complies with our national guidelines & the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE). I will then search our database and select 8 volunteer images that match the suspect in age & general appearance.

Once the film is compiled, I will contact witnesses to see if they would recognise the person who committed the offence if they were to see them again. If they are suitable to take part in ID procedures, they would attend the Police Station and be shown the ID parade. The witness views the ID parade on a DVD in isolated conditions. This showing is filmed so that it is a fair process.

On an average day, I will capture 2 - 3 suspects in custody (film them) and see at least one witness a day. I sometimes have to attend court to give evidence, train new officers & all of this involves quite a lot of paperwork! With every job I deal with, I have to compile witness statements, viewing booklets for use when we show a witness the ID parade & also a personal statement. Officers often call for guidance on cases, so I have to make sure I am au fait with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) and other legalisation relevant to identification issues. With all of the above, we ensure that we keep a record of all of the people we film in custody on Excel, and also retain all of the paperwork & DVDs used.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“I enjoy the variety. Due to the amount of people I deal with, no two days are the same. I can deal with victims and suspects of varying levels of crime, from thefts to murder.”

And the least?

“We have to do quite a bit of paperwork, and occasionally have to deal with aggressive people - however this isn’t too frequent!”

What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?

“That we still get people off the street, put them in a room & show the victim the line-up behind two-way glass.”

What are the main skills you need to be an ID Unit Manager?

“Excellent communication skills, patience, ability to work under pressure, ability to work in a team, willing to learn case law & applicable legislation, good administrative skills.”

Tell us a little about the benefits that come with the job.

“Great pension, fantastic colleagues, get to deal with very interesting people from all walks of life. Great job satisfaction from getting good results & helping victims of crime. The pay isn’t too bad; a new ID Manager can expect £23,000 plus, which rises with experience & depending on performance. The top salary is approx £30,000 but these salaries vary dependent on which police force you work for. You also get paid to work overtime.”

What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?

“I’d always recommend volunteering for the police force you wish to work for, as it gives you a great insight into different roles. If that isn’t possible, it might be possible to do a day’s work experience with an ID Manager. Third option is to try and gain a temporary position within your local police force as this is the best way to learn of any vacancies. The more experience someone has within a police/legal environment, the better.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

“Ideally still working for the police. At the moment, I’d be quite happy to continue running ID parades, however I wouldn’t mind working in our Major Crime Unit in the future. Hopefully careers in the public sector will be a bit more stable by then.”


First in the office or last to leave?

“First in the office.”

Tea or coffee?

“Peppermint tea and coffee!”

Staff canteen or packed lunch?

“Packed lunch. Canteen? We don’t have one.”

The lift or the stairs?

“I’m on the ground floor.”

Out after work or straight home to bed?

“Straight home to bed. I get up for work at 5am so I’m a dullard during the week!”