We then need to carry out a risk assessment – intoxication, violence, injuries, medical conditions, drugs, mental health, vulnerability all play a part.
I then need to manage that risk and look after them throughout their stay at the police station. Everything I do or say is captured on CCTV and decisions I make are thoroughly documented. I remain accountable in law and our processes are enshrined in statute.
It is important to manage a person’s rights and ensure that they are dealt with fairly and within the law. Any breaches of the law during custody may impact on the investigation and any subsequent trial.
Multiply that responsibility across a potential 21 detainees in a full cell block and the enormity of the task becomes clear.
Then take the man from this evening’s episode of 24 Hours in Police Custody.
His behaviour that night made it very difficult to manage as there were so many unknowns. His level of intoxication, head injuries and intent to self-harm meant I had no alternative but have him constantly watched by an officer.
But while dealing with him, we still had all the other detainees to look after, some with far greater needs.
We know that eventually everyone will calm down; it’s just a matter of time and managing them through the process.
Ironically, a person who creates so many issues in custody will inevitably stay there longer.
Custody sergeants develop a tough skin – we tolerate abuse on a daily basis but maintain a professional response throughout.
We have a great team of detention officers – it is very much a team effort.
We know that a person is innocent until proven guilty regardless of the allegation or their extreme behaviour.
For some detainees the custody process can be quite an ordeal and we need to recognise the effect this may have on them when they are released.
So, before anyone leaves the police station we make sure they have somewhere to go and where possible, offer support for those who may need it.
We work under extreme pressure and endure a high level of scrutiny. For me, the role of a custody officer is one of the hardest jobs in the force. But I enjoy it despite the challenges – every day is different.
Custody Sergeant Ted Bloodworth