‘Under-used’ cells at police station to close next March
THE cells at Ashford police station are expected to officially close next March.
The Kent Police Authority (KPA) was yesterday (Wednesday) expected to rubber-stamp senior police officers’ proposals to close the custody suite.
The decision by Kent Police’s top brass was made because the cells are one of the least busy in the county and too expensive to run at nearly £200,000 last year.
Police say the suite is normally only half full and required 314 Sergeant and 219 detention officer shifts to run it during 2008-9.
Those working at the Ashford suite are expected to be redeployed across the county, and, in particular to Folkestone.
Police say the closure will also free officers to go on the beat.
On average it takes an hour and a half to book a prisoner into custody with an officer off the streets and behind a desk for about four hours filling out paperwork.
Chief Constable Michael Fuller said in his report to the KPA: “The closure of Ashford custody suite would allow staff to be redeployed across the other suites; particularly Folkestone.
“The redeployment of custody staff would see streamlining of the detainee booking-in process, significant reductions in dwell time and provide the opportunity to return staff to front line duties quickly.
“The closure is confined to the custody suite only and there will be no other impact to the locality or diminution of uniform patrol resources at the venue. All resourcing of uniform patrols remain the same and there will be no reduction in officers patrolling the Ashford area.”
The eight cells and one detention room will be kept should they be needed
The plans have already provoked concern from Ashford MP Damian Green, borough councillors and groups such as Charing Parish Council.
Widespread concern was expressed when the plan was first revealed over the extra time it would take to transport prisoners to and from the Folkestone custody suite.
Ashford council’s safety boss Cllr Michael Claughton (Con), also spoke of his concerns over the closure.
He said: “Considering Ashford is a growing area, closing the custody suite would be a retrograde step. I also share the general concern that it would restrict the number of arrests. It would cause serious problems if there was a really major civil disturbance.”
Full report on the KPA’s decision in next week’s paper.
Chief Constable Michael Fuller