One of the major roles of a constable, after the protection of life, is the prevention & detection of crime. This may come as a surprise to the suits who run the show because in order to detect crime it’s a kind of ‘given’ that you will need to arrest people.
Actually, you might be forgiven to think that arresting people isn’t what the suits had in mind when they introduced ‘street bail’. This is a method of dealing with people on the street who otherwise would be arrested but are bailed to meet you at a pre-arranged time at a police station some time in the future, which avoids having their sorry arses through the cell door at a time when it would probably have the most effect on them; i.e. there and then.
Anyway, I digress. A usual weekend of mayhem and drunken violence with said people doing what they do best, get drunk and being violent, and her Majesty’s boys & girls in blue running from one domestic to the next and from punch-up to another brawl and back again.
Pretty soon the cells are full up, that’s all the cells, in the whole county, every one. (at least what’s the Custody Sergeants said and they are the keeper of the keys). So we’re faced with ‘alternative arrangements’. These being a broadcast over the radios that all custody spaces are now taken, which is a kind of warning that if you arrest someone having been told there is nowhere to put them ‘it’s your own damn fault’ if you have to wait until Christmas to get them booked in somewhere, anywhere, including another county. Secondly, anyone who is arrested should, if at all possible, be ‘street bailed’. So you have the prospect of some lout who thinks it’s good sport to punch a PC in the head, being offered street bail because there is nowhere to lock him up. I love it when a plan comes together.
The reason there are no cells at weekends is because someone thought it would be a good idea to close all the police stations, well, most of them.
Time was, not so long ago, when almost every main police station had a cell block and even a custody sergeant to staff it, and every prisoner you had was dealt with at your own nick. That has several benefits; firstly it’s quick. You don’t have to drive 15 miles (or more) to the next town to use their cells. You know where all the paperwork is so you don’t spend hours searching around a strange police station looking for statement forms and the myriad of other forms which you will spend the next 3 hours completing. And finally, you know the staff and importantly the Custody Sergeant.
This means you get a better service from them. After all, it’s human nature that it is far easier to be rude to people you don’t know, and that includes people in the same job. That’s why NTL ‘Customer Services’ are so bloody good at it; they haven’t a clue who you are, don’t care and will probably never speak to you again much less meet you face to face. It’s the same in the job.
Other ‘givens’ when it comes to lack of custody space is that those on the gound will complaint to anyone who will listen that every weekend this situation happens, they will do this for several years, the bosses will talk management bollocks about better service, more officers on the street, future plans, things take time, etc etc all of which will amount to there being no cell in which to put your drunken wife-beater next weekend.
Apparently, closing police stations and cell blocks allows you to provide a better service. A better service to whom I am yet to be made aware, it’s certainly not a better service to me, nor the people I arrest. Perhaps it’s a better service to bean counters who have to count beans from less police stations.