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New terminals bring ‘suite music’ to custody battle for volunteer army

May 29, 2013
THANKS A MILLION: Deputy commissioner Sue Arnold with award-winners George Beech, left, and Peter Kelly

THANKS A MILLION: Handing out awards to George Beech, left, and Peter Kelly

A VOLUNTEER army who help ‘police’ the custody suites of Staffordshire and Stoke have been handed a hi-tech shot-in-the-arm as well as a pat-on-the-back for their dedication and devotion to duty.

The unsung heroes, who carry out inspections and monitor the welfare of individuals detained in police cells, have the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner in Staffordshire to thank for an impressive bank of new computer terminals to assist with their tasks.

The net result will make the job of Independent Custody Visitors (ICVs) much easier and save custody sergeants almost 50 days a year in time currently wasted on form-filling bureaucracy.

And the vital role played by the unsalaried taskforce – which I have championed  – was fittingly highlighted when she presented awards to two long-serving volunteer custody recruits.

The ceremony, at police HQ in Stafford, followed a one-day conference where the volunteers were also given extra training on a new data protection scheme.

Praising their commitment and dedication, I told the volunteers: “I’m here to listen, support and help. I want to ensure a challenging, rewarding and fulfilling journey in your role.

“I so admire the volunteer visitors and the massive contribution you make in general to society and local communities as well.

“You provide a crucial link between the community and police and maintain public confidence in the custody system, doing behind the scenes work for Staffordshire police in making unannounced checks on conditions of cells and the welfare of people in custody.”

The two award winners were Hanford’s George Beech, who has worked with disadvantaged youngsters for three decades, and Stoke deputy head Peter Kelly – both men having devoted 17 years as volunteers at Etruria custody suite.

My three visits to custody suites across the county opened my eyes to the problems you are facing on one of your half-a-dozen-or-so visits a year to the ‘coalface’.

On one of my trips I waited 35 minutes for the custody sergeant to become free from his frantic workload.

Those minutes can turn to hours when the reports keeping tabs on the conditions of cells and prisoners held in police custody are being checked and counter-checked by visitor and officer alike.

Since becoming the deputy police and crime commissioner for Staffordshire at the beginning of the year I been trying to put in place new procedures that will give you – and the custody sergeant – a breather from the long-winded world you inhabit.

The OPCC has seen to it that new terminals with the National Strategy for Police Information Systems (NSPIS) will be placed in appropriate positions to enable you to complete your tasks on the computer – saving you time and hassle and sparing the custody sergeant a whopping 388 hours a year, which is nearly 50 days a year.

The visitors work to a strict code of conduct and are fully trained before they embark on their special duties.

They visit in pairs and can check police cells – where they are granted access to detainees – at any time of the day or night to make sure custody rules are being observed.

Anyone interested in joining this unique volunteer army should apply now by calling Jane Milgate 01785 232245 or visit the PCC website at www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk or visit YouTube to find out more http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7s-akLN2J8

Volunteer visitors provide a crucial link between the community and police and maintain public confidence in the custody system

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