Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

On the Criminal-Justice Front Line; It Can Be a Stressful Career in an Often Intimidating Environment but Being a Custody Officer Can Give Job Satisfaction - as Well Being a Real Character-Builder

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

On the Criminal-Justice Front Line; It Can Be a Stressful Career in an Often Intimidating Environment but Being a Custody Officer Can Give Job Satisfaction - as Well Being a Real Character-Builder

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Richardson

SINCE her shift started two hours ago, designated detention officer Olivia Cummins has been busy processing four detainees, taking their fingerprints, their DNA and their photographs and testing their saliva for drugs using a Cozart kit.

She's liaised with solicitors, organised phone calls and been on the front line of the criminal justice system, handling people who could be angry, drunk, abusive or just plain scared.

Based at Forest Gate police station in Newham, east London, Olivia's role is part of the Metropolitan Police's longterm programme of reform, which aims to improve the processing of detainees, improve safety (for both detainees and officers) and provide an even better professional service to the public.

"There have been some big changes recently in the way custody suites are run at stations throughout the Met," she says. "Part of my job is checking on those suites at least every 15 minutes and reassuring people and explaining the process. I could be ensuring they get any medical attention they need or helping them get ready for a court appearance later in the morning."

Olivia, 25, started work as a designated detention officer (DDO) three years ago after graduating from London South Bank University with a 2:2 in criminology. "Because of my degree and the voluntary work I had done in the courts as a student I had a vague idea of what DDOs did," she says. "I thought it would be a role which would give me a good introduction to working for the police service - and that the money was good.

"Before I started I had six weeks' training on the practical side of the job as well as seminars on the legal and administrative elements. We work in shifts with three other DDOs - while some people who have been arrested can be violent or aggressive, I feel well supported by my sergeant and inspector as well as my team. I'd never put myself at risk."

Because DDOs are playing an increasingly important role in the improved system, the Met is now looking to significantly increase their number. According to Detective Superintendent David Imroth, head of the Met's custody directorate, it's a challenging but very varied and rewarding role for police staff. …

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