Last Monday nights first episode of the Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary 'Coppers' was pretty good in my view and certainly conveyed a lot of the flavour of a fairly large police custody suite. For me the obvious omissions were the comings and goings of official visitors, such as solicitors, medics, probation, drug workers etc., together with the drunken mayhem that is bound to ensue on a Friday and Saturday night. Nevertheless it brought out many of the issues and highlighted the roller coaster of emotions that the 'regulars' generate ranging from comedy to tragedy and everything else, including amazement, in between. Two mobile phones and their chargers secreted in the rectum must surely be something of a record I think.
I have to say I recognised most of the clientele, especially the poet who reminded me of someone I tried to supervise a few years ago. He eventually lost a leg through an infected DVT and proceeded to parade around the neighbourhood in a brash convertable purchased with the proceeds of a compensation claim. The really sad thing is that we all know both these characters will not survive much beyond their 30's. I was particularly struck by one custody officer commenting on prisoners appearing ready for court, with bag packed hoping to get sent down for drug detoxification. I've certainly heard this many times, but it's barmy and we really do need to sort something better out.
It seemed to me that all the custody staff had the requisite amount of equilibrium, humour and professionalism that are needed on a daily basis to be able to cope with what is one of the most challenging of police roles.