Request which most dread is to be put on "a constant."
THERE are very few requests within the police service which strike dread into the hearts of a serving police officer. To some it's paperwork from the Crown Prosecution Service, for others something totally different.
But one request which most dread is to be put on "a constant." For those unfamiliar with this term, a constant is short for "a constant supervision." This can take place under several different circumstances but either way will involve an officer babysitting someone.
The majority of constants take place in the police custody suite. The reason for this is that everyone who is taken into custody after having been arrested has to be risk assessed by the custody sergeant on duty. This normally consists of several pre-determined questions used to gauge the prisoner's welfare. For example, are they on a certain medication or have any illnesses or injury? They will also be asked if they have ever self harmed, and, if so, how and when. That's coupled with the question as to whether they currently feel depressed or suicidal. A prisoner's answer will determine whether there is a need to place them on a constant supervision.
A constant supervision can last between an hour or for the duration that the prisoner is in custody and will mean an officer will be expected to sit outside their cell door to ensure prisoners don't harm themselves. You may wonder how a prisoner who is searched when taken into custody can have any implement on them which they could use to harm themselves. But I have been present when prisoners have attempted to knock themselves unconscious by throwing themselves headfirst against the cell wall, hands have been broken by prisoners punching walls or cell doors. In one extreme case I even heard of a prisoner who attempted to choke themselves by stuffing toilet paper from the cell toilet down their throat.
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Constant observations are a necessity but can be boring. Once you have exhausted the conversation with the prisoner about their family, the last crime they committed and any other trivia you can think of - providing he will chat to you in the first place rather than constantly call you names - then the only other option is to seek out some reading material.
Now, do not get the impression that each custody suite holds an amount of reading material equivalent to the Central Library.
You are more likely to find hard nosed police officers reading outdated copies of Caravan Weekly or Woman's Own magazines, but if you're lucky enough to find a good book, your prisoner is asleep and you are hoping to finish it before the end of your duty then think again.
Because one thing is for certain. That is, if it's been read by several prisoners before you, then the last pages will be missing. You can hear them sniggering from their cell beds.