ICVA is delighted today to release the interim evaluation into a joint pilot with Dyfed Powys Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed Powys.
ICVA has undertaken a thematic review of the use of anti-rip clothing in police custody having noted the frequency with which it was reported as an area of improvement or a cause for concern in inspectorate reports. The reports revealed consistent concerns with the use of anti-rip clothing in custody, two of the issues being:
- The suits/clothing are recorded as being used in the absence of risk information, often with difficult detainees, by force, and have been noted as being potentially punitive.
- Poor recording and practice in terms of both proportionality and justification of the use of the suits.
The removal of a detainees clothing is an extreme measure with a large impact on detainee dignity. In their expectations for inspecting police custody, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services includes an indicator stating: ‘The removal of any clothing or other items to manage self-harm is based on an individual risk assessment and is a last resort when all other options have been considered.’
Dyfed Powys police led by Chief Inspector Steve Thomas of Dyfed-Powys Police (who Chairs the NPCC risk subgroup), Dyfed Powys OPCC and ICVA agreed to work together on a pilot to:
- Closely monitor the use of anti-rip suits in Dyfed Powys custody suites on a force wide basis.
- Improve recording of the use of anti-rip clothing.
- Remove the use of anti-rip clothing by force, in the absence of risk information.
- Increase the quality of justification and consideration of proportionality where the clothing is used.
The agreed methodology of the pilot was that Independent Custody Visitors would review the custody records of those detainees for whom anti-rip clothing (or anti-harm clothing) was a feature of their time in custody using a matrix developed by ICVA to determine whether a use of the clothing met criteria for green, amber or red uses. Green, for example, would be a use of the clothing where the risk of harm is imminent, recorded and proportionate with a full justification in the custody record as well as reviews.
The ICVs have been reviewing records since March 2022, and the thanks of ICVA, the OPCC and Dyfed Powys Police go to the incredibly dedicated volunteers who have been leading the reviews and providing the integral feedback loop to the force.
The interim evaluation of the pilot gives the background and rationale into the pilot, the initial implementation phase (with a detailed overview of the challenges and successes of the approaches taken) and the data from the pilot itself.
The report also includes an overview of work along a similar vein from Norfolk and Suffolk ICVs and custody leads to promote and share good practice.
ICVs can review almost all uses of the clothing and have become increasingly skilled at rating the records and providing feedback to the force. ICVs reported that undertaking the work having a significant impact on their custody expertise as well as being an interesting and rewarding new aspect to the role. The force has welcomed the increased transparency and joint working opportunity that the pilot has presented.
ICVs have commented:
“In my opinion, early results show a very noticeable improvement of the rationale for their use, and an overall reduction in “Red” scores.”
“The ICV reviews have enabled me to form a more rounded understanding of the protocols and timelines used in the use and application of the anti-rip suits. “
The pilot has had a significant improvement in the monitoring of the use of anti-rip clothing in Dyfed Powys. Previously the use of the clothing was not monitored, and due to the pilot, the use of the clothing is now a reportable and closely monitored area of custody records. Not only is the use of the clothing now monitored effectively, but the quality of the recording and justification of the use of the clothing has considerably improved. Custody staff are now fully justifying uses of the clothing in many more cases and ensuring that these uses are regularly reviewed in a dynamic risk management style with the aim of returning the detainee to their own clothes as soon as possible.
Whilst the pilot has not yet been able to eradicate uses of the clothing in the absence of risk entirely to date, this remains the aim and pilot members are heartened to see that these occasions have decreased overall with cases graded as ‘red’ tending to be more borderline ‘amber’ than previously seen in some cases.
The evaluation makes a series of recommendations to the Home Office, National Police Chiefs Council and the College of Policing in order to embed the learning and spread the good practice from the pilot work.
You can read the full interim evaluation in ICVA’s media centre.
If you have any queries or would like to discuss implementing something similar in your area, please email email@example.com and we would be delighted to assist.