Posted: Friday 3rd April 2015
One of my commitments is to invite local people to help me in my role scrutinising how Avon and Somerset Police are performing. It gives people from our local communities more involvement in their police service and provides an independent, objective view into different areas of policing.
It is for this reason that each week a small but dedicated group of local people drop in to custody suites unannounced to check on the detainees being held in custody, the conditions in which they are being held and that their rights and entitlements are being observed. It offers protection to both detainees and the police and allows independent members of the public a real insight into conditions in custody.
Last year a group of around 65 people made 468 visits to custody suites and conducted 952 interviews with detainees, detention officers and others working there. They raised issues such as delays in medical assessments, a shortage of blankets and the cleanliness of cells. Of course, detainees want to be treated well and detention officers want to be able to look after those in their care so these visits benefit everyone.
The statistics show that in 99% of cases the issues can be resolved during the visit with anything outstanding raised with a local Inspector. My office also receive regular reports from the visits. We work closely with the Constabulary, who are grateful for the feedback, and more often than not the comments are very positive.
These visits will not make detention a five star experience but it will make sure that the detainees’ welfare is looked after and that custody staff have everything they need to properly carry out their duties.
The Independent Custody Visitors scheme is just one way that local communities can help scrutinise and support the police. An Independent Residents Panel helps me look at police complaints and highlights good practice whilst in your community there are many practical things you can do to get involved. There are various volunteer opportunities with the police, you could become a Special Constable or join your local Neighbourhood Watch or Community SpeedWatch scheme. It’s your police service and there are plenty of ways to get involved – and I know they value your support.
Until next time,