Eyes and Ears in a Custody Suite

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Did you know that the cells used by the police have to be designated for such use, which also means that they have to meet certain standards before they can be passed as fit for use.  Each custody suite is subject to annual inspections in some cases by (independent)  HM Inspector of Constabularies in other cases by an internal department of the police force.

HMIC - Inspecting policing in the public interest

Each day, the custody staff should also carry out their own inspections to ensure the premises remain fit for purpose.

Each of the custody suites is extensively covered by CCTV, which also record audio throughout the building.  This safeguards both the detainees ate staff that work there.  However the “customers” generally are too angry or drunk to care about the CCTV and the staff become complacent and act normally (for better or for worse).  The recorded footage has helped prove many an allegation but has also succeeded in refuting wrongful allegations.   Police brutality is generally a thing of the past but it does still rear its head now and again as the below describes but it is also refreshing to see that the wrong doers have been dealt with for their unacceptable behaviour.

Excessive Use Of Force Against Two Women In Custody

Two young women were arrested for assault, handcuffed and taken into custody.

When the first woman arrived at the custody desk, her handcuffs were removed. A member of police staff searched her and removed bobbles from her hair without warning. She yelled at the member of staff and the officers who had brought her to the desk to get off her and demanded to know what they were doing. The member of staff put her left arm up in a straight arm bar hold and shouted ‘behave’ at her.

The member of police staff who conducted the search was not expected to assist with restraining detainees or removing handcuffs and her officer safety training was one year out of date. She had not been made fully aware of the limits of her role in respect of the use of force.

The woman’s arms were then raised behind her back and, when she did not appear to understand a question, an officer put his arm under her chin. These restraint techniques were used even though she had not become physically aggressive and no-one had explained why she was being searched, why she was being restrained and what was expected of her. The custody officer told her she would ‘learn the hard way’.

When the second woman was brought into custody she got the same sort of treatment. While at the custody desk, she asked one of the officers behind her “Why are you holding my neck like that?” – CCTV showed her head moving back and forward. An officer on the other side of the custody desk then grabbed hold of the woman’s head and pulled it down to the counter, swearing at her repeatedly and telling her not to move or he would “rip her skull off”.

The two officers behind her raised her arms behind her back and held them above her head for about a minute and a half, so her body pressed down on the custody desk, while the officer behind the desk pulled her handcuffs towards him. She was made to beg to be released and when she complained that she was in pain was told “it’s meant to hurt”. Her arms were badly bruised. CCTV did not suggest she posed a physical threat to the officers concerned.

The custody officer was present during the processing of both detainees. He not only failed to stop the excessive force used, he told the first woman that she would only get food and drink if she was polite and the second that the police “are trained to hurt”.

The custody officer and the officer who grabbed the head of the second detainee from the other side of the custody desk were found guilty at trial of misconduct in a public office and were each sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. The two officers who took the women into the custody suite and the member of police staff all received formal advice and management action.

As part of the IPCC managed investigation, a supervising sergeant from the police force concerned was asked to review the actions of all the officers involved. The sergeant was required to give evidence for the prosecution at the criminal trials of the officers on both the force’s training regime and on the appropriateness of the officers’ actions.

It would have been preferable to be able to draw on a regional cadre of self-defence experts so that experts from other police forces could have given evidence on the appropriateness of the officers’ actions, while an officer from the home force provide evidence on training in the force.

Officers from the force in question attended a oneday officer safety course, which was refreshed every 18 months.

Courtesy of Learning the Lessons.  For a copy of the document click here

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