The idea of working with sex offenders every day is not one that most people would be comfortable with – but for some police officers it’s a public duty they must carry out.
“Not everybody is going to be keen that sex offenders are living in the community,” says Detective Inspector Alicia Shaw, head of public protection at Hertfordshire Police.
“It’s not a role that everyone wants – to work with sex offenders on a daily basis.
“But they have to be rehabilitated, they have to be housed somewhere and they have to be checked.”
Alicia oversees a team of detectives and workers who visit sex offenders around the community, while the force also has a dedicated polygraph unit who visit offenders.
“We don’t like it being called a lie detector test, it’s a tool to assess the sex offenders,” Alicia tells the Gazette.
“The polygraph test is voluntary. It’s not used for evidence, but more to get information.
“We are the first force in the country to have two trained officers. It’s all to help with risk offenders.
“You’re wired up to a laptop and it looks at blood pressure and other responses.
“From 2014 to 2017 they have done about 250 polygraph tests. Sometimes the offenders want to move house or something like that, and they want to show us that they have been compliant.”
Alicia accepts that for some residents, the thought of having someone on the sex offenders registers living near them is far from ideal.
“Of course, it’s the court’s decision about who goes to prison,” she says.
“We will do the police arrests and then go to court, but it’s not down to us.
“We’re not minimising offences, but someone who keeps exposing themselves – are they more of a nuisance rather than a sex offender?
“It’s a whole other conversation to have. Not necessarily all of them will go to prison.
“Our teams will go out and see the sex offenders and see if they commit certain offences, such as not telling police about bank accounts they have.
“We want to be keeping the public out there safe because they can’t all go to prison.”
So how has Alicia’s team ended up in the position they have? After all, it’s hardly the first position that will come to mind when considering a career in the police.
She say: “It depends on what the officer wants.
“All my police officers have been through a detective program, but we have all started as bobbies on the beat.
“The progression has been to become a detective, and you will then move to local investigation team and bring your experience of investigations.
“If any sex offenders commit another crime we need to look at it in detail, so we need qualified people for that role.”
So what is it like for the officers? What sort of relationship will they have with these offenders?
“Some of the offender managers have got to know them over the years,” says DI Shaw.
“You’re visiting them in their homes and meeting their families.
“Other agencies will be responsible for rehabilitation, but they will also work with those agencies to ensure the safety of the public, but also the safety of the offenders.”
The team’s work may go unnoticed, but is vital for the public to feel secure.