Essex Police appeals for volunteer detectives
A police chief has insisted his force's appeal for volunteer detectives is "not about policing on the cheap".
Essex Police put out an ad seeking wannabe sleuths to help investigate "murders, attempted murders, stranger rapes and kidnappings".
The force hopes to recruit new special constabulary roles within its major and serious economic crime units.
A local councillor said it indicated a "recruitment crisis", while the Police Federation said it was not surprising.
The force's advert says applicants will receive training to help them "bring justice to some of the most serious criminals in Essex".
It says volunteers for the serious economic crime unit could work on "complex fraud and corruption cases, money laundering and electoral fraud".
The force hopes individuals, who must commit at least 16 hours a month, can bring their own experience to the role - such as people with accountancy skills helping to investigate financial crime.
Assistant Chief Constable Nick Downing said: "This is not about policing on the cheap or lowering the status of detectives.
"I am very proud of the outstanding work that our detectives do and they are an integral part of our workforce, investigating the most serious, complex and harrowing of crimes.
"We continue to invest in both the training of our existing detectives and offer our other officers the opportunity to undertake the specialist training required to undertake this role."
'The thinnest blue line'
Labour councillor Dave Harris, of Colchester Borough Council, said he was "absolutely appalled" by the force's move.
"It's the thinnest blue line I've seen in my life," he said.
"The volunteers have good intentions but they are going to make mistakes. It's just not right. It takes years to train these professionals."
Karen Stephens, secretary of the National Police Federation of England and Wales Detectives' Forum, said the recruitment of volunteer detectives was the "first of its kind" but not "surprising".
She said there was a "serious shortfall" in the number of detectives and the role was no longer as "sought-after" and desirable as it once was.
She said: "While these volunteers wouldn't be expected to carry out the same role as a trained detective and are not to take the place of a trained detective, the lower level basic support they may be able to give overstretched detectives can only be a positive thing as long as they have the adequate training and support in place."
A Home Office spokesman said: "Our provisional funding settlement for next year will see police funding increase by up to £970 million, including money raised through council tax.
"Police forces are working with the College of Policing to ensure all forces have adequate numbers of detectives, and we are funding the development of the Police Now Detective Scheme to help bridge the gap."