Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye has thanked local volunteers for their work inspecting police custody facilities in the county.
A report released last week by the commissioner’s office highlights the work of the independent custody visitors in Bedfordshire over the past 12 months.
Independent custody visitors are members of the local community who, working in pairs, call at police custody suites unannounced at any time.
With agreement from detainees, the visitors can speak to anyone in custody about their treatment or conditions, and take up any issues or concerns with custody staff.
A report of their findings is then made prior to them leaving the suite. This report is provided to custody staff and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
Their work provides the PCC and the local community with assurance that anyone arrested by the police and held in custody is treated fairly and has access to appropriate facilities.
Mr Akinbusoye said: “I am pleased to publish my first independent custody visiting annual report.
“I have a statutory duty to establish and maintain an independent custody visiting scheme within Bedfordshire and with the fantastic support from our hardworking and committed volunteers, we are able to provide reassurance to the wider community in Bedfordshire that those who are detained are being looked after and treated fairly.”
The report highlights the importance of the scheme, the new custody estate in Kempston, as well as providing statistics on those who come into custody and the demographics of the independent custody visitors.
Independent custody visitors come from all sections of the community. They must be aged 18 or over, live in Bedfordshire and have been a resident in the UK for at least three years prior to the date of application.
No specific qualifications are required as full training and support is provided, however visitors should be good listeners, non-judgmental and unbiased.
The PCC’s office is recruiting now to accurately reflect the community of Bedfordshire. If you are interested in finding out more about the scheme and volunteering, or would like to apply, please visit https://www.bedfordshire.pcc.police.uk/independent-custody-visiting/