The Detectives is a harrowing, riveting, and intense look at the real side of policing that usually only gets shown through the lense of a slick ITV drama. This BBC documentary is very much the opposite of that glossy view of the humble British plod.
These three hours over the course of Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights are an example of the fine television that the BBC can, and should, produce. Mostly it’s the level of access that is given to the documentary makers of not only the police but some of the victims too. And the care that the subject matter is treated is a testament to the need to not glamorise this type of show.
Dealing with cases from the Serious Sexual Offences Unit from the Greater Manchester Police it showed the police, the victims, to perpetrators, and the realities of the investigation process. So the police attempt to arrest a suspect only to find he’s not home, so they pop round to arrest him at his dad’s. Mainly it deals with the process of investigating, interviewing, charging, and gaining a conviction of Ray Teret for multiple rapes and sexual assaults in the 60s and 70s. The sight of the now convicted racist wandering from interview room to cell with paper, handkerchiefs, and other things hanging out of his mouth will live in the memory for a while.
The moments that will live on longest in the memory though are those where the victims take centre stage; the 999 call from a girl about to be raped is one of the most genuinely harrowing few seconds on television. Ever.
Portraying the victims of rape and sexual assault in a sensitive and powerful way was the success of the final episode where those that are often forgotten in the media reporting, and TV drama depictions, of these crimes. Taking the time to understand the victims and their feelings, the six hours on the stand, the years of repressed feelings, and the sense of relief at guilty verdicts is more affecting than any drama portrayal.
And the police themselves care, securing convictions on behalf of the victims, even finding a suspect after a year of trying, the tears of Detective Sergeant Mark show what it means. Everything.
The Detectives is essential viewing. Tough yes, but documentary making at its absolute best. Riveting, disturbing, distressing, fascinating, brilliant, touching. Only real life can make you feel this way.
Watch The Detectives now on BBC iPlayer.