Unmissable: Channel 4’s 24 Hours in Police Custody comes under the spotlight

The 24 Hours in Police Custody team at Luton Police Station. Pic: Channel 4

The 24 Hours in Police Custody team at Luton Police Station. Pic: Channel 4 - Credit: Archant

People’s perceptions of the police vary greatly and in these times of austerity it is all too easy to get disullusioned with a perceived lack of presence on our streets.

Suffolk Constabulary, just like all forces, continues to face up to considerable budget reductions and the way it polices the county is changing year by year.

More and more these days we’re told that the police simply don’t have the time or resources to deal with low level stuff (anti-social behaviour, vandalism, and even some types of burglary) and that they share our frustration but don’t have choice – they’ve got bigger fish to fry basically.

We’ve had plenty of police-based real-life TV shows over the years, as well as all the high-profile crime dramas that broadcasters seemingly can’t get enough of, which have offered real insight into the day-to-day work of the officers both on the street and behind the scenes.

One show currently on the go on Channel 4 is offering perhaps the clearest idea of what it must be like to be part of the long arm of the law.

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24 Hours in Police Custody is a terrific documentary series, now in its third run of episodes in less than a year, which looks at a different aspect of crimefighting each week.

From domestic abuse, honour crimes, murder and human trafficking, the programmes illustrate precisely why the police have had to reduce feet on the street and have them indoors – they face having to search through mounds of evidence, be it reams of statements or computer hard drives, in order to compile a case strong enough to convince the Crown Prosecution Service to agree to a charge.

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The dedication of the detectives and officers is startling and many will be surprised by just how many hours these people work, how much they care about getting a conviction and the level of support they offer to the witnesses and victims.

These are ordinary people, men and women of all backgrounds, none of which fit the cop drama stereotype.

We’ve seen the door-bashing sort of stuff in droves over the years, but never really got to grips with the next phase of policing and investigating, and the 24 hour countdown adds a touch of genuine drama to even the most mundane of cases.

Has a programme ever taken a more honest and neutral perspective on the work of the police and the role investigation plays in catching criminals and getting them to court? This may well be the best bit of PR the police have had in a long, long time and the inspiring nature of these people may serve to be the best recruiting method possible.

Who wouldn’t want to be part of and share in the job satisfaction of the team which helped secure a conviction – and 11 years in prison – for a man who stabbed his wife in her eye?

Of course some of the cases turn out to not quite fulfil the expected narrative, and in several cases the CPS won’t charge, there is not enough evidence, or the suspects simply didn’t commit any crime.

But overall the image of everyday policing it paints seems pretty accurate and suggests that modern policing methods are maybe a bit misunderstood.

• What do you think? Email me or follow me on Twitter @Elliot_Furniss

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