Custody management puts officers back on the beat

Current performance and budgetary pressures are compelling many police forces to reconsider their structures and staff roles. Custody is a core area of police business where forces can focus effort on a high potential for improved productivity.

Feb 14, 2008

Current performance and budgetary pressures are compelling many police forces to reconsider their structures and staff roles. Custody is a core area of police business where forces can focus effort on a high potential for improved productivity.

Back in 2000 Sussex Police recognised the potential benefits of involving the private sector in support of their core business. If the service provision could be outsourced then police officers would be released back to frontline duties.

In 2001 a consortium, lead by Reliance was appointed to deliver and manage the design, construction and 30 year operation, of their new IDHCs (Investigation and Detention Handling Centres) across Sussex.

The first centre opened in 2002 and eventually a dozen traditional custody suites were replaced with six new IDHCs. Under the management of one operator, these new custody centres delivered a unified approach to custody management and operational procedures throughout the force and provided genuine cost savings to the force. Five years later and despite a detainee throughput rise of 25 per cent this approach has led to a streamlining of procedures, improved morale amongst staff and has helped Sussex Police towards their key goal of protecting the public.

A recent independent report by independent consultants BDO Stoy Hayward has confirmed that: “The average time spent by the two arresting officers at the custody suite from arrival to authorisation of arrest, has reduced from 30 minutes to nine minutes. This has been achieved by using trained, dedicated custody personnel. As there are over 50,000 detentions each year, this leads to over 35,000 extra hours that these officers can spend on operational duties. The saving in hours is the equivalent of having around an extra 20 officers on front line policing duties.”

With the emphasis on high-visibility policing, Thames Valley Police also utilised the benefits of these hi-tech working practices to return 133 officers to frontline operational duties and reduced its operational budget by £1.3 million per annum.

A wide geographic area is covered by 12 centres across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire. Each basic command unit (BCU) is responsible for its own custody centres and was convinced of the opportunity to release valuable police resources back to the frontline by outsourcing its custody services to Reliance. A locally-based custody centre manager works closely with each BCU and the custody inspector. A fully-trained multi-skilled team supports the Thames Valley Police ‘Tough Choices’ programme and Reliance manages and administers the data collection and verification of each arrest before information is transmitted to the central database.

The drive towards professionalising and improving custody operations has now led to the Reliance Team being awarded the BSI ISO9001:2000 Certificate for Quality Management Systems
•www.reliance-stms.co.uk

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