Prisoner Movements

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This is not that sort of movement! Read on.

Yesterday I had officers from three other forces in custody dealing with detainees. Those who had committed offences in their force area but been arrested in ours. We also had Trading Standards in to deal with some matters.

Yesterday we also had a detainee brought in who had been arrested for one of our offences by another force, some considerable distance away, that we collected and brought back to our custody to deal.

Today I already have Trading Standards again (they myst be on a roll) and a clutch of officers from as geographically far away in the England as they can be from.

When a suspect for an offence is identified and cannot be found by the home force (the one owning the job) they will circulate that person on the Police National Computer (PNC). Should that person then come into contact with the police anywhere in the country and be checked against PNC they will be shown as wanted by the home force. The police can exercise their powers of arrest and bring said person into custody. A process then starts where the home force is told their wanted person is in custody. They have to decide whether to travel to the holding force to deal there or collect and take back to their own area.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 caters well for such scenarios and has time built into the detention period to allow for movement between force areas. The rationale when determining a plan of action will have many factors but primary ones are how serious the offence is and the most expeditious way to deal with it.

If a serious offence then more often than not a complex investigation plan will be followed and officers will want to process in the security of their own facilities. If a lesser offence they may be happy to deal out of force in preference to transporting back to the home force. In years gone by it was common practice for home forces to ask the arresting force if they would interview and process for them. On many occasions as a humble PC I did just this and bailed or remanded people to courts many miles away. Over the last 10 years or so this good will has eroded somewhat (resource issues) and in many cases forces are struggling to process their own matters let alone those of other forces. Officers reading this will nod in agreement when I say that even trying to get an out of force s18 search completed can take hours and hours. As a result of this gradual change forces now collect or process detainees where arrested.

From my experience I find that more often than not outside forces attend at my custody and process here. Nowadays even some more complex enquiries. Whilst this is now common for some forces I’m finding that my own consistently collects and brings back to force.

Transporting detainees is not without risk. A debate I had some time ago revealed that many officers self transport their own arrests and many times single crewed. I blogged about this here.

Transport Risks

Traveling out of force carries even greater risk and single crewing in such circumstances, even if using a secure van, is wholly unacceptable. I’m glad to say that apart from the incident outlined in the blog above I am not aware of this happening again. Setting that to one side we have to then, as resources are so thin in the ground, consider their effective deployment.

Demand outstrips resources every single day. Our chap yesterday was arrested some 120 miles away from where the offence was committed. Two officers were deployed and sent to collect him. They spent the majority of their shift travelling, collecting and returning to our custody. By the time this was done it was too late for them to process without incurring overtime. As a result the matter was passed on to officers on lates. To cut a long story short the final disposal was bail. Our detainee then has the problem of being 120 miles from home and us having no duty to get him there.

There are some who may say “tough”. The attitude being that If you don’t commit offences you won’t end up in such a predicament. I dont fall into that camp. This is a harsh stance considering that all are innocent until proven guilty.

We are in times of austerity. We are operating with fewer officers and effective deployment of resources is vital. Is it really the best use of resources to send two officers to collect and a third to deal or to send one out of force to process there? From a demand perspective in my suite I’m finding that we are processing all our offences wherever the arrest is made and a huge chunk of all the out of force matters arrested in our area too. This is clearly a matter for my force to address but I would be interested to know what other custody Sgts are experiencing around the country.

We have always been willing to assist other forces and allow them to process at our suites but I wonder how long this may last. I recently had dealings with a custody Sgt in a northern force who held somebody on a warrant for our court. She was desperate to get this person out of her custody. It was a Friday and the PECS contractor had said they could not move that person on Saturday morning in time to get to court in our area. She insisted that she could not hold this person all weekend and said we had to collect. I came in half way through this process and established the job was already created and two staff were on their way to collect. It was too late for me to intervene but it raised two matters for me. First that some forces, or their custody sgts, have a mindset that anything out of force is shifted out without question. Secondly that if contractors cannot fulfil their contract then it is not fit for purpose.

Ultimately the job should never have been created. We exposed ourselves to expense of transport, the risks involved and the subsequent managing of that detainee on arrival at our suite and holding for court that should have remained with the arresting force and the PECS contract holder. Another example of how outsourcing is being mismanaged and providers are having gaps in their service being plugged by police.

There are inefficiencies like this in every force in the country to a greater or lesser degree and exacerbated further by badly negotiated contracts, designed to save money, that actually still cost us.

Hardly a “systems thinking” approach is it?

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