College of Policing offers career pathway for cyber and digital investigators

The Cyber Digital Career Pathway Project is a College Of Policing led and Home Office backed project to create Career Pathways and professionalisation for Cyber Digital Investigators across Law Enforcement. Senior Project Advisor DI Alan Martin explains the rationale behind the project.

The Cyber Digital Career Pathways Project was created in response to concerns that individuals working on cyber and digital investigations were leaving law enforcement for private industry. It was also highlighted that despite their skills, individuals working in this area were not recognised as specialist professionals.  In addition, there were incidents were the veracity of their evidence had been challenged in court.


Following on from this, it was decided that the College of Policing would lead the scoping work for a five-year Cyber Digital Career Pathways Project focusing on retention, professionalisation and career pathways of cyber and digital staff. The project commenced in 2016 after a successful National Cyber Security Program (NCSP2) funding bid and began work with Law Enforcement organisations


The aim of the project is to provide a solution to these issues, not just for policing but for all of law enforcement.


It was identified that although there is a cyber digital element in approximately 97% of all crime there was no national scheme recognising those involved in the investigation of these crimes.  Other areas of law enforcement have long established professional bodies, such as the Drug Expert Witness Valuers’ Association (DEWVA) and with these bodies comes recognition and ever-growing expertise.


The fact there is a national body allows for the sharing of information and continuous professional development on a national scale which in turn

develops best practice.  The Institute of Cyber Digital Investigation Professionals (ICDIP) vision is replicate this in the cyber digital arena.


Following initial scoping the ICDIP has been created.  The creation of the ICDIP along with its accreditation of competency process and the

subsequent membership that is attained now provides an industry standard that recognises the specialist knowledge, skills and professional

status of those involved in cyber and digital investigations across all law enforcement.




The desire to be part of such an Institute has led to unprecedented demand for places. Starting with 14 partners in 2017, there are now 71

UK police forces and other law enforcement agencies engaged in the scheme. This figure is due to grow as the ICDIP continues to gain


The ICDIP currently has 496 members, with a further number of candidates currently undertaking the application and subsequent accreditation process to become members in this financial year which will take the total membership to over 900. The scheme is continuously growing and the extra candidates being placed through the scheme are simply meeting demand.  


The rapid uptake of places has further cemented the belief that this was a long overdue step in the professionalisation of this fast growing area of investigation.


How the scheme works?

The scheme is eligible to anyone working in law enforcement who is involved in cyber investigations or any investigation which has a digital opportunity.


What sets the ICDIP apart is the creation of ‘job families’. Five job families have been created, Investigator, Intelligence, Forensic, Analyst and Interviewer. Each candidate is required to identify which job family they feel they best sit within and then supply a portfolio of evidence in an application format.


ICDIP job family descriptors

Within each of the job families the ICDIP has determined that there are two skill categories which exist:

· Practitioner: Operatives who perform the practical elements involved in a cyber digital investigation. The Practitioner category predominantly draws upon the psychomotor (or ‘doing’) skill sets. For example: a person whose job it is to take a mobile phone apart in order to extract information.


· Strategist: Those associated with strategist elements of a cyber digital investigation draw upon the affective skill categories. The skills for strategists cover setting the direction, negotiating, management, coordinating and authorising processes and practices at a corporate level. For example: a person whose job it is to write the policy around how to take a mobile phone apart in order to extract information in order to comply with regulations or legislative requirements.


There are three levels of competency within the scheme which creates a career pathway for operatives. These are:

• Junior Practitioner            •  Junior Strategist

• Practitioner                      • Strategist

• Senior Practitioner           • Senior Strategist


The project has designed a number of skill statements in relation to each job family, category and level. The candidate has to provide evidence matching a set amount of the skill statements dependent on the level of award they are applying for. This evidence is then assessed and if going for a senior award the candidate is also subject to an interview. The application and award to the candidates has been designed to be suitably robust and therefore ensures that the Institute remains credible.

Benefits and feedback on the scheme

The scheme provides much needed professional recognition of specialist cyber and digital skills within Law Enforcement. ICDIP is unique in that it is an assessment of competency which values demonstration of skills as part of an investigation, rather than just knowledge.

By becoming a member you will have access to a national network of cyber and digital operatives across Law Enforcement and access to people undertaking similar roles in private industry and business. There is also access to masterclasses and webinars on topics relevant to cyber and digital investigators.

Surveys of existing members highlight it is Influencing people’s decision to stay in Law

The project has discussed the assessment process with a barrister and trial judge who commented that:

‘If any members of the ICDIP were to come before him whilst presiding at a criminal trial then he would regard them as ‘expert witnesses’

In addition, the project has received feedback from many candidates who have gone through the scheme. For example:

“I am a Detective Inspector but I had little practitioner knowledge prior to entering the Digital Investigation and Intelligence discipline. I found ICDIP very helpful as a means to test myself, record skills I possessed, and identify gaps where I needed to develop. I found the project leaders very approachable, to the point where they changed aspects of the pilot scheme when I provided critical feedback. This showed that they were keen to listen to candidates, rather than push their own objectives. I am particularly keen to accredit digital skills as there are few alternatives available outside of academia – this is a much quicker method of illustrating competence. I even attended a CPD event on Internet Investigations thanks to the pilot. I look forward to developing my cyber skills and share my passion with others to ensure digital ability becomes a core element of law enforcement”.

Cyber Digital Career Pathways Project lead Fiona Paterson said: “This is an incredibly exciting and long overdue scheme that recognises the vitally important work that is carried out daily those who work in cyber and digital policing. The team are working incredibly hard to ensure that the Institute is fully established, credible and provides its members with career pathways and opportunities to develop their skills.”


The long-term plans for the scheme are underway with a process to determine the provider for the scheme from April 2021.

Team leaders


Project Lead Fiona Paterson

Fiona joined the Cyber Digital Career Pathways Project team in April, bringing with her experience of law enforcement and cyber knowledge.


Fiona has 17 years’ experience in Law Enforcement as Head of Intelligence Analysis and Research, and was the portfolio staff officer for the

National Analysis Working Group.


Fiona also conducted a number of reviews in on behalf of the College of Policing. After leaving Law Enforcement, Fiona became cyber policy

lead at the Bank of England, providing cyber advice to financial institutions, programme managing a series of intelligence led cyber security

tests against financial institutions, and writing international guidance.


Whilst at the Bank, she also co-ordinated responses to cyber incidents between the Bank of England, National Cyber Security Centre, National

Crime Agency, HM Treasury, and financial institutions. More recently Fiona worked as a cyber consultant, advising governments and large




Senior Project Advisor – Detective Inspector Alan Martin     

Alan joined the Cyber Digital Career Pathways team in August 2019, having been seconded from Merseyside Police.

Alan has over 20 years’ experience in policing, most of that having been spent within the Criminal Investigations Department. He has worked in

areas such as Murder investigations, Reactive CID, Covert Target Operations, Acquisitive Crime, Domestic Violence, Child Protection,

Professional Standards and most recently the Anti – Corruption Unit. Alan has also worked on a number of large scale national and cross

border investigations involving drugs and firearms.

He has received a number of awards and commendations for his work.

Alan is also a National Drugs Expert Witness and is a member of the Drugs Expert Witness Valuers Association, having provided both written

evidence and court testimony in a vast amount of Crown court trials.


To find out more about the project and how to apply to become a membr please contact: .


If you have access, information is also available on the Police ICT Knowledge Hub: