THE frequency of strip searches Derbyshire Police execute in its custody cells has raised eyebrows following a visit from inspectors.
An inspection from the chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick and HM Inspector of Constabulary Dru Sharpling discovered a ‘high incidence of strip searching’ which the force had ‘no structured means of monitoring’.
The report said rationale for carrying out strip searches was ‘often lacking’ and recommended custody staff to be monitored for justification of its use.
It said: “On several occasions we observed detainees admitting to having used drugs in the last 24 hours and then being told by custody staff that they would need to be strip searched because of this.”
Some strip searches took place in cells monitored on CCTV and visible behind the custody desk.
“This should have been turned off,” the report said.
Despite the concerns, the inspectors praised Derbyshire Police for ‘excellent’ joint work between the force, arrest referral workers and health services and ‘good’ interaction between custody staff and detainees.
It said: “Staff were polite and courteous and the general conditions of the suites were good.
“Healthcare was good and the force had a strategic lead officer for mental health.”
Superintendent Sunita Gamblin, head of the force’s criminal justice department, welcomed the report and said the force would consider the recommendations to ensure searches were ‘proportionate’ and ‘balanced’.
She said: “The inspection revealed some areas of excellence.
“In respect of the strip search policy our approach has always been based on minimising the risk to detainees as their safety is our main priority.
“We want to ensure that detainees aren’t in possession of anything which they could use to harm themselves while they are detained in a cell.”