A force which was warned against closing a custody suite is now looking to the private sector for help – after officers admitted they were reluctant to take detainees on longer journeys during peak demand.
Nottinghamshire Police closed Worksop custody suite in October last year for financial reasons, despite protests from the public and Bassetlaw MP John Mann.
As a result, officers face longer 30-minute journeys to cells in either Mansfield or Newark.
But is has now emerged that the force is looking to security contractor G4S for help after officers said they were concerned about intervening in low-level offending during peak times in the town centre. This was because they could be potentially committing themselves to longer journeys for lesser offences – and leaving the frontline more exposed.
Piloting the Street-to-Suite scheme, which sees officers hand detainees over to G4S custodians for transportation, means the officers can now make the early interventions – preventing more serious offending from developing, Supt Mike Manley said.
The Local Commander for Bassetlaw and Newark Sherwood said he would prefer his own custody suite but he could only work with what was possible.
He said: “Would I like a custody suite on our patch? Yes I would.
“I am pushing for every opportunity to support the frontline.”
The Local Commander added: “Low level issues were not being tackled.
“We have listened to officers and said ‘okay, if that is the case we need to give you the resources to make those early interventions’.”
An initial pilot on a November weekend saw two detainees transported by G4S to the cells, allowing officers to stay out on the streets. This saved around 10 hours of officer time, Supt Manley said.
He added that the force is now looking to extend the pilot for a year, possibly on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in Worksop – but a tendering process would need to be run if the initiative becomes permanent.. There were no guarantees that G4S would be awarded a contract.
G4S currently delivers the Street-to-Suite service as a permanent arrangement to Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire Police, but has also provided it on an ad-hoc basis to seven other forces in England and Wales.
The move will cost Nottinghamshire around £80,000 a year according to Labour MP Mr Mann, who criticised the force.
He said: “Now we have £80,000 a year being spent on G4S instead of putting people in a purpose built custody suite in a police station.
“It is what the government wants but the public doesn’t want it, I don’t want it and frontline officers don’t want it.
“They (officers) want to be able to arrest people and lock them up in the cells that are available locally.”
Mr Mann said Worksop Police Station itself was still open although the cells were not in use.
Supt Manley would not comment on the financial cost given by the MP as the matter was commercially sensitive.
He believed an in-force solution was possible but Nottinghamshire was eager to discover why other forces claimed Street-to-Suite was successful.
The officer added: “All options are open to us but we have to consider why other forces have gone down this route.
“They said it appears cost effective. We have to see whether it is, whether we can have a relationship with a commercial provider and whether it suits our requirements.”
Supt Manley added that he had so far liked what he had seen from the scheme, which also allowed for preventative policing.
He said: “A big part of the evening (during the trial) was to go around and make contact with young men and letting them know we have this facility and letting them know we were able to take action at the earliest possible opportunity.
“That was lacking previously.”