Just Another Day..

This is a real day. The content is, understandably, depersonalised in order to stop any associations being made.

It’s dark. I arrive at the gate and present my pass to the card reader. A beep acknowledges my admission and the gates slowly swing open. I park my car and enter the main building and then the airlock that grants access to the secure area. I open the second airlock door and enter the cell area. The ever present smell of bad feet, body odour and general uncleanliness assaults my nostrils. After 10 minutes, unless someone is particularly noisome, you become acclimatised and don’t particularly notice it.

I arrive at the desk. Handover is a busy time. My colleagues (2 other Sgts) are already here and one is being briefed on the handover by a night Sgt. The night Sgt updates us on every detainee in custody on investigation status, medical issues and all other information pertinent to that persons care whilst in custody.

I begin the handover check of every detainee in custody. There are 13 in today. Quiet in many regards. I visit each cell and have to rouse them and engage in brief verbal exchange to ensure they are ok. Most simply acknowledge you; others see it as an opportunity to rant about detention times or make requests for updates, drinks, food, phone calls, showers and generally they will state they “have been asking all night and denied everything”

Back at the desk. Another Sgt has divided the detainees between us. I make a note on every custody record that they have been checked and are alive and well. I smile when I note that certain detainees have been offered and had, or declined, all those things they claim have been withheld. The phone is ringing.

We have 13 DP’s (detained persons) in total. 4 are for court, 1 is a prison recall waiting to go to HMP and the other 8 are all PACE DP’s. (need to be interviewed or processed).

I now commence an individual risk assessment on the dp’s allocated to me. This includes checking all previous assessments, looking at any medical entries and ensuring I am happy with the previous Sgts rationale and care plan. Those that I have who are for court have had a PER form completed overnight. This is how we pass on information about risks to other agencies who will come onto contact with the person when they leave us. I check to make sure the information entered by the night shift detention officers is accurate and relevant before signing them off as FTD, FTT and FFC (fit to detain, fit to transfer and fit for court).

The phone is ringing. The access buzzer for the gate sounds and one of the 4 detention officers on duty today allows the private escort contractor into the van dock. They will take our dp’s to court. My DO’s check the property out and assist the staff as they collect their dp’s. During this time I cross check all their custody records on the computer and ensure all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted so they can be released.

Court van still here but close to leaving. Gate buzzer sounds and first new arrest of the day arrives. Phone still ringing.

I take responsibility for the new arrival and book in a male for a drugs offence. This person has been circulated on the national computer. He knew it and decided to hand himself in. He is expecting prison and has come with a large bag of clothing and possessions. Everything has to be recorded and bagged up and takes some time.

Drug arrest now complete and booked in. Review situation and take a slurp of tea that’s been sat there since 7am. Luke warm verging on cold.

Phone still in overdrive. As soon as one line is put down it rings again. Officers querying matters about their dp, court, probation, social services and youth offending teams are all regular callers at this time of day.

Day staff from the custody investigation team are now coming into the charge area. They generally start by getting rid of the jobs that are quick to deal with and don’t need interviewing. I deal with a drink driver who was so drunk he needed over 11 hours to sober up. Behind me one of the other Sgts is dealing with a Polish male and is having to use an interpreter to communicate over the phone.

The drink driver has now been fingerprinted and photographed and is leaving. There has been a delay as I had to make enquiries for him to get his vehicle released, how much this was going to cost and how he was going to get to his car. Several phone calls and searching various databases for information. Essentially stuff the arresting officer should have done but has now gone off duty and whilst not worth ringing him up at home trying to find the information can be like pulling teeth.

BTP arrive in custody to deal with one they arrested last night. Having released 4 to court and one new arrival we currently have 10 in custody. The BTP dp wants a solicitor. That have not arrived yet but are on their way.

I now deal with another Polish dp for a domestic assault. He needs his rights as he was drunk when he arrived. I get an interpreter on the phone and go through his rights with him and give him a printed notice in his own language. I also have to inform him of a review the Inspector conducted whilst he was asleep. He wants a solicitor so when his rights are done a DO takes him back to his cell and I call the DSCC for him.

Send email to Polish embassy to advise of dp’s detention. Trying to do this I have an IT issue and spend next 10 mins on phone to our support desk getting it sorted.

Inspector rings and wants updates on several dp’s who are due to have a review.

Ring clothing stores/supply office to query an ongoing battle I have with getting a tunic.

Still at 10 dp’s. Chase outside supervisor to obtain progress report on statements that need taking before Polish male can be interviewed.

Make toast

Eat toast and enjoy fresh cup of tea. Read CID night report to see what has occurred overnight.

During this time BTP have given disclosure to the solicitor and the dp has had chance to consult with solicitor which took 30 mins. BTP now go to interview.

Phone still ringing. Officers asking for re-bails or advice, solicitors chasing results and some people missing relatives who always ring us first!

Total now down to 9. One released by Sgt after charge for theft.

Listen to case update and authorise charge for theft that dp is admitting. Bail to CJSSS court and release. Complete electronic MG6 with charge rationale decision and append to electronic case file. We are down to 8 but gate buzzer sounds and another new arrest is arriving.

Bailer answering at desk. OIC in custody and needs charge putting on custody record and disposal for court creating. New arrest being booked in by colleague.

Charge area busy. DO staff fingerprinting existing dp’s who were to drunk to be done on arrival overnight. BTP have finished interview and stand in far corner with dp and solicitor waiting for a Sgt to become free.

Update on Polish case. Statements being taken with interpreter. Will take some time but need different interpreter for suspect interview and need me to arrange that.

Interpreter booked. Other Sgt dealing with bailer. The other on phone to solicitor discussing a case from a week ago.

Colleagues have managed to release 2 more. One was the BTP matter. We are down to 7. I have booked bailer back into custody, charged with burglary and released to court in a few weeks.

Phone still ringing. Feeling pestered. Gate buzzer sounds but it’s a blanket delivery from laundry company. One DO goes to delivery area to accept newly laundered stock. All those in custody are sober now and are checked by the DO’s every 30 or 60 mins depending on their risk assessment.

Offered new cup of tea. Last one is cold and has one mouthful taken from it.

Check new emails. Nothing major. Chat briefly with fellow Sgt’s during a lull.

Check force orders and latest internal news on intranet site. Begin reading lengthy appeal court judgement about interesting case that is highly relevant to custody.

New arrest x 2. Colleague books in drugs offence. I book in drunk male with mental health problems for harassment. Difficult process exacerbated by his learning difficulties and takes 45 mins to complete. Nurse booked to see him and discuss case with arresting officer for plan of action. Total back to 9.

BTP arrive to deal with two bailers.

Van arrives to take HMP recall. Total back to 8. Cross check custody record and release. Check PER and property and handover to the escort contractor.

BTP bailers fail to turn up. Officers leave.

Offence of drunk in charge of a child. Specialist officers have dealt with this case and child temporarily in care of social services. Caution is being suggested. After much discussion and questioning of officers I agree to caution and administer. Sensitive issue and dp has to be told child is in care and what she needs to do. DP very emotional and goes from tearful to angry and back again throughout the process. Tact and care needed and this takes 40 mins in total.

Phone still constantly ringing. Another bailer. Drink drive with blood result now back. Reading 180+. Charge and bail to court.

Refs. Blessed relief. Go outside and sit in car. Nice to see natural daylight and feel wind on face. Check tweets and listen to radio.. fall asleep.

Wake automatically and return to the custody area. There have been a couple released and some more new arrivals and total is still 8. Male with mental health concerns refused to see nurse and will need to sober up before a proper assessment can be conducted. Nurse confirmed he is FTD.

Phone still ringing. DO has become involved in a VIPER matter and another is on refs. We are down to 2 DO’s. One is dedicated to cell checks which effectively means we have one DO covering the suite to get dp’s out, put them away, fingerprint etc. Discuss and study case for racially aggravated public order offence. These issues are always sensitive and need considerable thought. Read all statements. Racially aggravated angle not made out. Charge with S5 public order offence. Record rationale on MG6 and custody record. Such cases watched closely so decision rationale needs writing carefully to justify my decision. Takes some time.

Phone still ringing. Officers approach me. As I have nobody stood facing me on desk I am generally considered to be “free”. I am still considering decision on racially aggravated offence. Answer a few calls in between and give brief guidance to officers on other matters. Many phone calls are officers asking questions about matters that they could answer themselves if they took the time to interrogate the computer properly.

S5 case now complete and released. Phone still ringing. One Sgt on refs and other has booked in another new arrest. Still totalling 8. Polish male has been interviewed. Case discussed. Assaults are denied so as a domestic matter it is a simple decision to  refer to the CPS for charging decision once I”m satisfied the evidence is sufficient. In this case he is to be remanded if charged so evidence need only pass the threshold test.

Mental health dp making claims for medication. It needs to be collected from home. Arrange for staff to collect keys, attend address and collect boxed and labelled medication.

2 new arrests arrive at same time. 1 is a burglary offence and the other an illegal immigrant from Iraq. Outside Sgt rings to ask about urgency of medication and tell me that he has no staff to run errands and it could be hours. Book foreign national into custody using interpreter on the phone. Total now 10.

Bailer. Rebailed at front desk as case not complete. OIC emailed and asked to rebail in advance and avoid attendance at custody unnecessarily.

Other Sgts have concluded a couple of cases. I’ve been busy and don’t know what disposal decisions were reached. Phone still ringing.

New arrest.  Drunk, violent make for knife crime. Welcoming committee needed in van dock. Brought into custody and stand close by with officers and DO’s whilst colleague tries to book in. Too drunk so sent to cell. Unable to establish any risks and dp violent. Camera cell utilised and dp has to be forcibly stripped of clothing. DP has mental health issues and is alcoholic. Will need to see nurse but not until calmer.

Tactic complete. DP fought against us throughout. Now hot and sweaty and feel uncomfortable. Professional actions of staff mean no injuries during tactic have been sustained by dp or officers/staff.

Polish male has charges authorised. Use interpreter on phone to charge with two offences and outline my reasons for remanding. He become agitated at remand decision and is escorted back to cell by 2 DO’s, myself and another Sgt. Chooses to only remonstrate by shouting.. none of us know what he is saying.. goes back in cell without a fight.

Charge/remand process complete. Interpreter booked for court.

Phone still ringing. Commence handover documentation. Inspector also on phone chasing updates before reviews.

Print handover and brief night staff on those on custody. At no time during the day have we had more than 14. Mostly we have hovered at 8 and yet work rate has been constant even with 3 Sgt’s.

Leave for home. The pressure has been endless throughout the day. To step outside into the dark again, despite the fact it’s raining, and feel the fresh air and space is liberating. The weight of the days responsibilities lifts from my shoulders.

Pull out of car park and head for home. In back of mind I know I will be doing it all again tomorrow.


12 thoughts on “Just Another Day..”

    1. Thanks Veep. It’s an odd paradox that we could have 25+ in and feel less busy. It is often the case that decisions made by Snr Officers on custody staffing are based on raw numbers alone. To my mind its all about “maintenance” of the ones you have. Some are no trouble at all and others are exceptionally “high maintenance”. These are the ones that can really throw your resources and ability to manage. Losing one Sgt for a few hours to concentrate on a serious job with 2/3 detainees or a long winded mental health case can be crippling.

      1. I will do! Thank you again for taking the time to put these blogs up.

  1. I know just how you feel. In my part of the country they’ve closed five custody suites this year. Consequently, one of our custody suites (which has 58 cells) is frequently full because it serves the two busiest divisions in the force. Everyone is stressed every day!

  2. wow, felt like making you a fresh brew myself. Watched a recent programme on tv on a custody suite and thought oh thats what you do – just dont know how you do this, you must have the patience of a saint to do this role! No wonder you enjoy escaping to the car and we love your tweets too but will be even more appreciative of them now.

  3. If this is typical back-office workload, I cannot see that there are many who could walk in as a (G4S) contracted replacement. There can be no training programme that covers all possible situations Much of what you do has to be picked up Topsy fashion. If this deduction is correct, the May proposals are just unrealistic. There are serious risks to life and limb. The street guys will not be appreciative of a buggered up hand-over so there will be conflict there. Plus, I suppose, there is chance that a wrong decision in procedure could result in the dp walking. In the words of my old boss when I took over responsibility for something ‘and the best of luck, my old son’
    Thanks for this.

  4. Really interesting and informative Sarge. Non police families have absolutely no idea how much work you do, how intense and varied it is, the enormous amount of checking, recording, cross checking and advising you do, and of course, the long hours shut away in your dungeon. What amazes me most. when reading this, is just how will you continue to cope given longer hours and less staff? This is highly relevant to the huge rise in sickness due to stress and depression, and also the Forces considering out sourcing this. I’m thinking that your DOs are going to need the wheelchair pushing courses for all the worn out custody sergeant. Hope that, in writing this, you’ve eased the pressure for even just a little while and that you’re able to enjoy both the sunshine and your family for the rest of the day. you deserve the utmost respect and admiration for the huge job you do. as my elder grandson says, ‘Respect’

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