Loughborough University
MJS esrel2019-paper.pdf (233.42 kB)

Investigating the decision-making approach to risk assessment in police custody

Download (233.42 kB)
conference contribution
posted on 2019-06-04, 09:00 authored by Melanie-Jane Stoneman, Lisa JacksonLisa Jackson, Sarah DunnettSarah Dunnett, Louise Cooke
When a person is booked into police custody in England and Wales they are assessed for risk of harm to themselves or to others. This risk assessment informs the decision as to what observation level they are placed on, ranging from hourly visits to constant observation for the highest risk detainees. In comparison to the international standard for risk management, there are gaps in the risk assessment process in police custody. Currently, the analysis and evaluation of identified risk is down to the experience and judgement of the Custody Officer, rather than a more structured method. This paper questions whether the process should be more formalized, using a statistical tool rather than relying on expert judgement. This paper uses a mixed methods approach investigating custody record data from three English police forces to identify key risk factors that lead to variances in observation levels, and interviewing sixteen Custody Officers from a further two forces investigating their perspective of the risk assessment process The findings suggest that whilst there are key factors affecting observation level, an entirely statistically based risk assessment process would lack the flexibility to account for the individual and would need to include additional information custody officers consider. It is concluded that further investigation should be conducted into a process which combines an actuarial approach with the intuitive insights gained from expert decision-making.


This work was supported by the EPSRC under Grant EP/M507908/1



  • Business and Economics


  • Business

Published in

Proceedings of the 29th European Safety and Reliability Conference


1594 - 1601


STONEMAN, M-J. ... et al., 2019. Investigating the decision-making approach to risk assessment in police custody. IN: Beer, M. and Zio, E. (eds). Proceedings of the 29th European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL), Hannover, Germany, 22 - 26 September 2019.


© ESREL Organisers. Published by Research Publishing, Singapore


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Acceptance date


Publication date


Copyright date





  • en


Michael Beer and Enrico Zio


Hannover, Germany

Event dates

22 – 26 September 2019