The Duty Inspector

This page is intended to list the questions which very often drift to the attention of ‘the duty inspector’ on local police areas. It contains links to guidance and other blog posts which might help to resolve frequently asked questions and queries.

Mental health issues very frequently come to the attention of duty inspectors:  where PCs and Sergeants need advice in lieu of training, where they hit barriers with partner organisations, where disputes exist about whether the police will or will not resource a mental health related incident and will deal with representations or complaints from other agencies or the public.

If your local arrangements don’t look like the answers provided below, it is probably legitimate to ask for your local arrangements to be reviewed, as they are based upon law and national guidelines.

(Non police readers who want to know more about what a ‘duty inspector does –  or police officers, for that matter! – should read the bottom few paragraphs, which outline the role a bit more.)

  • A offender in custody has been ‘sectioned’ but it’s a serious offencewhat do we do?
  • We’re at a job in a private place where someone is threatening suicidewhat can we do?
  • <  More to follow shortly. >
  • I see so many different ranks of police officer and I don’t know who is in charge! – what does it all mean?

Happy to add to this list if there are further queries – just email me on


For non-police readers: every police area entrusts the minute-by-minute oversight of its police operations to a duty inspector – an officer of my rank.  You become responsible for the oversight of all officers on duty at that time and / or the provision of legal and policy authorities to officers from neighbourhood policing teams, 24/7 response shifts, CID or PPU detectives, etc., etc. and this can amount in some areas to over 100 officers at some points.  Initial appointment to this rank usually finds you left ‘in charge of the shop’ (especially at evenings and weekends) for the first time and you inherit a world of statutory responsibilities to authorise house searches, surveillance and youth justice disposals; as well as the call out of more senior or specialist officers; mobilizations of other areas’ officers in the face of critical incidents or public disorder.

You are the accountable officer for police activity and in charge of the initial management of all critical incidents – murders, shootings, rapes, child abuductions and high risk missing people.  You are responsible as a disclipline authority for the intial handling of professional standards matters, including deaths in custody; police traffic collisions and excessive use of force complaints.

When I first became an inspector, further advice and support out of working hours meant ringing a superintendent or chief superintendent at home, or overnight; or calling out senior detectives for murders and professional standards issues.  Now, there is often a superintendent on duty covering the force area, but they usually become involved in tactical decisions only at the request of the duty inspector.

It is the first ‘command’ rank hence the apparently unusual cultural practice of PCs and Sergeants addressing this officer as ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’, more informally as ‘the boss’.

Winner of the President’s Medal,
the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Winner of the Mind Digital Media Award


All views expressed are my own – they do not represent the views of any organisation.
(c) Michael Brown, 2012

I try to keep this blog up to date, but inevitably over time, amendments to the law as well as court rulings and other findings from inquests and complaints processes mean it is difficult to ensure all the articles and pages remain current.  Please ensure you check all legal issues in particular and take appropriate professional advice where necessary.

Government legislation website –