Wednesday, 28 July 2010

The anti-theft sandwich bag: new trust-building kit for Sussex Police?

Last week I spent four days conducting interviews for Independent Custody Visitors - the volunteers who drop in, unannounced, at Sussex Police's privately-run custody centres - to check that the police are following the rules, that detained persons (many of whom will end up being acquitted, or even released without charge) are being treated with respect, and according to the law.

The role is an essential cog in the machine of scrutinising the police, and, broadly, the police themselves very much welcome the visitors, and are happy to take any advice given and sort out most problems on the spot.

Everyone involved recognises that the system helps give the public confidence that everything works as it should do in the brave new world of privately-run suites of cells, ensuring both the police and the detainees have their rights protected.

With the recent death of a woman being held at Worthing custody centre, it could be argued that the scrutiny of the way prisoners are held in Sussex is more important then ever.

Whoever ends up being recruited to perform the roles, I think it's fair to say there's an urgent need to rebuild trust between the visitors, and among the police themselves, in Worthing.

We spent two days there, and found the fridge locked. Everything in the kitchen that could be 'borrowed' was, literally in many cases, bolted down.

It was clear that none of the police staff and officers using the training centre at the police HQ there trusted each other not to pinch their lunch.

Maybe some of theses bags would help!

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