Custody sergeant shares his favourite memories as he retires from Nottinghamshire Police

A custody sergeant has revealed his secret for handling difficult detainees as he retires from Nottinghamshire Police after 26 years.

By Shelley Marriott
Sunday, 3rd July 2022, 10:47 am

Sergeant Richard Welbourne, 50, said remaining calm and patient was crucial when booking in hostile suspects.

He said: “I pride myself on being able to deal with difficult individuals and difficult situations.

“You get detainees kicking out, shouting and even spitting. People tell me they don’t know how I remain patient but, the way I look at it, I win in the long run if I manage to do so.

Sgt Rich Welbourne is retiring from Nottinghamshire Police

“If I keep my cool with someone who is calling me all names under the sun and offer them a drink and persevere with them, it’s extremely rare that I don’t win them around.

“That person then becomes easier to deal with and then I win because my job becomes easier. It also means that when that person comes in a second time and recognises me, the chances of the detainee becoming abusive is far less.”

Sgt Welbourne’s viewpoint is shaped by years of experience.

He joined Nottinghamshire Police in 1996 after deciding he no longer wished to work in his father’s bakery, where police officers dropped by during a tea break.

He said: “Working in the family business just didn’t work out. My heart wasn’t in it and I burnt too many things.

“I went to university and then had to decide what career to pursue. I always recalled there were some police officers who called into my dad’s bakery and they all said they enjoyed the police and so I applied.”

After ten years working in Response, he moved into custody after the discovery of a leg tumour left him requiring a role with restricted duties.

By the time he recovered, any thoughts of a return to his former role had diminished.

He said: “I enjoyed the role of custody sergeant, I found I was quite well suited to it. I also had young children on the way and I found the more regular hours suited my family life.

“Sure, it’s a challenging role in that we deal with some very, very difficult people and we do get a lot of officer assaults in custody. I’ve been kicked in the privates a few times, I’ve been spat at and fallen backwards when trying to apprehend someone.

“But that said, I find it quite rewarding that I’m seen as someone who can resolve difficult situations. I get a lot of satisfaction when a difficult suspect is being brought in by several officers and then the suspect sees me and says, ‘I’ll talk to him’.

“When I’ve had a difficult shift, I like driving home and feeling like I’ve earnt my pay. Feeling like I’ve done a good, honest day’s work has always been my motivation, as opposed to anything else such as achieving a higher rank or money.”

Custody sergeants are often in for a difficult shift when detainees are intoxicated and Sgt Welbourne recalled one such occasion.

He said: “I’ll always remember one gentleman who we were booking in on New Year’s Eve. He said ‘you can’t put me in a cell because I’ll get smufficated’. I said, ‘I’m sorry - that’s not even a word’ – but he kept saying ‘you know what I mean, I’ll get smufficated!’.

“About ten minutes later, one of the detention officers asked me to go and see him in the cells because he was still shouting and making no sense. I went down and asked him what the problem was and he bellowed back, ‘I told you about it at the till’. He was that drunk I think he thought he was in a shop.

“There are other stories I could tell you but you couldn’t print them.”

One such story involved Sgt Welbourne getting in trouble with his superiors and, following a bit of persuasion, he agreed to tell it.

He said: “A taxi driver once handed in a bag that was left in a taxi. I looked in the bag to see if there was anything inside that could help identify who it belonged to, and it was quite clear it belonged to a student.

“One of the items was a disposable camera and I noticed there were still a number of photos to be used on it. I persuaded the PC I was working with that it’d be a really good idea to use the rest of the film.

“I then went round the rest of Canning Circus Police Station taking photos of my then sergeant and all of the CID officers, pretending to do catalogue poses and the like.

“The only two people who knew it wasn’t my camera were me and the other PC. Everyone else believed it was mine.

“We then found out who the camera and bag belonged to and went down to their address. The student was so grateful as it contained her bank cards and everything, but I had to confess we’d used up the rest of her camera.

“Luckily, she found it hilarious and when she got the camera developed she got two sets of prints done and dropped one of them off at the police station.

“My sergeant, who was in some the pictures, then found out that it hadn’t been my camera and went absolutely bombastic.”

It is just one of many fond memories Sgt Welbourne takes with him as he retires from the police service.