Challenging but Very Stimulating

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 16, 2009 | Go to article overview

Challenging but Very Stimulating


Byline: jonathan morrow

More than half a million people were detained in custody across London in 2008. As these detainees arrive at the police station, the first people they come across are a Designated Detention officer (DDo). DDos are civilians who work alongside regular police officers to play a crucial role in maintaining the safety of the individual while carrying out the custody process, ensuring rights and entitlements are adhered to.

Mel Willis, 34, has been working for five years as a DDo based at Paddington Green police station. Mel cites the variety of the duties she undertakes as one of the job's main attractions: "I enjoy working with different cultures and I would say every part of the job is interesting.

We deal with nearly everything, from searching prisoners to taking fingerprints, assisting police officers and drug testing prisoners." The role of a DDo was originally introduced by the Home office to drugtest detainees and offer drug users access to rehabilitation programmes.

More recently, as the demand for police officers to carry out frontline duties has increased, the role has expanded dramatically as more DDos are employed to work within custody suites across London.

When someone is arrested, they are taken to the local police station where a DDo will read them their rights and entitlements. The individual is held while the offence is investigated and then either bailed pending further enquiry, charged with an offence and subsequently sent to court, or released without further action.

Being a DDo is no nine-to-five job; it requires the ability to carry out a number of duties and responsibilities on various shift patterns. Mel Willis describes a typical shift: "on a day shift I start early in the morning. The first thing I do is speak with my night-shift colleagues to find out what has happened during the night. Then I will make sure that if there are any prisoners due in court that day, they have had their breakfast and I send them on their way with the prisoner transport.

"During the day, I check on the prisoners in the cell, to see if they have any requests or problems. If they have any issues, I try to deal with whatever they ask me. I also meet with their solicitors and take the prisoners out of their cell for interview. I also take fingerprints, photographs, drug-testing and DNA samples. At the end of my shift, night-duty arrive and I inform them about any issues that I might have had with any of the prisoners." obviously performing these custody duties brings specific challenges and to meet them, DDos require a calm yet assertive approach. Detainees can become upset, aggressive and abusive..

They might feel their arrest was unfair and could be under the influence of drink or drugs. …

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