British Transport Police officers in London are facing increased times to transport arrestees after managers took the decision to reduce the number of custody suites in the capital to one.
The force currently has two facilities, one at Whitfield Street (W1) and the other at Brewery Road (N7), however officers last week heard that the Whitfield Street facility would close this autumn.
A memo sent to affected staff claims the Whitfield Street suite, plus the previously mothballed Wembley Park, Hammersmith and West Ham, can be re-opened “at short notice if required”.
This message has been reiterated by the BTP’s press office which said the facilities “will continue to be available for use during periods of increased demand for events such as Notting Hill Carnival.”
However force insiders have expressed concern that the closure will mean officers driving across London with their detainees, potentially delaying their return to the transport network and leaving colleagues with less backup.
Similar concerns have been raised by Metropolitan Police officers and London Assembly members after the capital’s largest force unveiled separate plans earlier this year to slash the number of custody suites it operates in order to cope with government funding cuts.
Policing experts have suggested to this site that the two forces could have co-operated on their closure programme and agreed to share custody facilities across the capital.
BTP’s police authority and the Department for Transport, its sponsoring government department, are currently facing calls to bring its transportation of arrestees in line with the Met which operates a fleet of CCTV enabled and which provide extra protection to both detainees and officers.