Maximum efficiency under lock and key

Spread across three predominantly rural counties, West Mercia Police is the fourth largest force geographically in England and Wales. Until recently, West Mercia was split into five territorial policing units which included: Herefordshire; North Worcestershire (covering Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Redditch); Shropshire; South Worcestershire (covering Worcester, Malvern, Droitwich, Pershore and Evesham); and Telford and Wrekin.

Feb 3, 2011
By Paul Jacques
Picture: IWF

Spread across three predominantly rural counties, West Mercia Police is the fourth largest force geographically in England and Wales. Until recently, West Mercia was split into five territorial policing units which included: Herefordshire; North Worcestershire (covering Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Redditch); Shropshire; South Worcestershire (covering Worcester, Malvern, Droitwich, Pershore and Evesham); and Telford and Wrekin.

Each of these units had its own command unit and its own custody facilities, that were operated independently of each other. However, a review was launched recently to ascertain the benefit of consolidating all units and adopting a single, unified policing footprint with just one command layer. 
West Mercia Police identified that as a result of this devolved management structure, each region’s custody management processes were different. Typically, West Mercia’s larger custody facilities were sometimes underutilised while others were stretched beyond capacity. As a result, potential economies of scale were not being exploited and peaks and troughs in demand were not being managed effectively.

Adam Thomas, chief inspector, operational services command, at West Mercia Police, explained: “We have primary custody facilities in five major towns across West Mercia: Hereford, Worcester, Kidderminster, Redditch, Telford and Shrewsbury. If they are operated in isolation, it stands to reason that there is a lot of duplicated effort and, frankly, missed opportunities for more informed decision making and greater efficiencies.”

West Mercia Police also identified that it needed a range of contingency plans to account for the occasions when one facility was offline, for example for refurbishment work. This issue became more pressing following a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of Constabulary and Prisons in December 2009, which specified that some of the custody suites across the region required refurbishment.

Lastly, West Mercia Police was keen to investigate the benefit of collaborating with neighbouring forces in the West Midlands region in order to optimise capacity management of custody facilities. 
As part of the review, a benchmarking exercise to establish current practices was necessary. To create this benchmark, West Mercia Police looked at a range of options, including specialist consultancy and ascertaining how other forces were handling the issue of custody management.
During its research, West Mercia Police learnt that the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) was sponsoring the adoption of Lanner’s PRISM solution, which is a suite of easy-to-use, rapidly-configurable simulation models covering key police processes. After an introduction to the solution at an NPIA event, West Mercia selected PRISM as its chosen approach.
Chief Insp Thomas said: “PRISM offered the most cost-effective solution to the custody management issues we faced, while still delivering all of the improved processes needed.”
 
The solution

Lanner’s PRISM Custody Management module was adopted by West Mercia Police and is now deployed on a desktop within operational support command.

PRISM allows West Mercia Police to easily see how custody management processes should be best configured, managed and resourced on a more scientific basis. By deploying it on the desktop at the local level, users can experiment with ‘what-if?’ scenarios in a safe, risk-free environment and test ideas on making key capital or resource decisions.

Chief Insp Thomas said: “One of the first things we did with PRISM was to look at the staffing and resource changes that a move to a single command structure would necessitate.

“Firstly, we needed to know what changes would be required to existing staffing levels in order to maintain our current throughput of detainees.

“Secondly, we wanted to experiment with how we could optimise these resources to get even more done with the same resources.

“Since then, we have developed

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