AFTER six months in charge of Bury St Edmunds’ Police Investigation Centre (PIC), Insp Zoe Finn says it has lived up to its promise.
The PIC opened in July and has handled an average of 460 detainees a month and Insp Finn said: “There isn’t anything around the design that hasn’t worked. It’s a Home Office design. They asked people what makes a good custody block.”
The PIC handles everything to do with custody, taking it from, often old, police stations to a purpose-built centre. It is one of three PICs serving Suffolk and Norfolk along with those at Martlesham and Wymondham.
For example, instead of police, lawyers’ and forensic examinations all happening in an interview room, there are now dedicated rooms and the forensics rooms are sterilised after each use.
It is obvious a lot of thought has gone into the building and staff delight in pointing out details, like water fountains in the cells that stop flowing for 15 minutes after each use to stop prisoners flooding the cell and convex mirrors allowing people to see all of a corridor before entering.
Insp Finn said old custody suites smelled of prisoners’ shoes left outside cells.
“Here it doesn’t smell because the shoes are put into a locker which has a system to take the air out,” she said.
The old custody suites were often dark and windowless Victorian ones such as those seen in police dramas, rather than light and clean like the PIC.
“The technology is brilliant,” said Insp Finn. “You can’t compare the two because you’re going from the Victorian age to the 21st century.”
There are even cells for at-risk detainees that monitor pulse and breathing and sound an alarm if they cannot be detected.
There is one thing that would make the PIC perfect in Insp Finn’s view. Though custody software was set up under the National Strategy for Police Information Systems, all 43 forces’ systems differ. So Bury’s PIC must duplicate things like fingerprint scanners because the information is fed to different systems.
“It was a question of what comes first, the building or the IT, and the building came first,” Insp Finn said. “Another custody system is being developed.”