Preliminary findings on police custody delivery in England and Wales in the 21st century: Is it 'good' enough?

Date of event: January 30, 2015

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Presenter : Dr Andrew Woof

Abstract : Police custody is where an arrested person is taken whilst a decision is reached about what should be done with their case. In the 21st century, this frontline work has seen growing civilianization and privatization of roles once performed by the police. This paper draws on a survey of 41 custody managers who provided data on 213 police custody suites across 41 police forces in England and Wales, as well as a thematic content analysis of HMIP/HMIC inspection reports for five police forces. A key finding from the survey data is that the majority of police custody suites remain wholly or partially police managed and owned. This analysis also shows five main types of custody suites: (1) the hard-pressed public suite, (2) the hard-pressed and persevering public suite, (3) the unhurried hybrid, (4) the hard-working hybrid, (5) the private super suite.

Analysis of the HMIP/HMIC reports show that of these five types the unhurried hybrid may be particularly beneficial to ‘good’ experiences of police custody; for example, the conditions of custody are better and in some instances may facilitate a more trusting relationship between detainees and the police, an important outcome in an era of declining trust in the police institution. The paper concludes by focusing on the importance of discretion and the conditions of custody in facilitating ‘good’ police custody



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