Tuesday, 25 January 2011

(Sung to the tune of "The Teddy Bears' Picnic") If you go driving about today, you'd better be road legal!

Found at the eastern end of the route today, an ANPR road check point run by the boys in blue, just after the bus stand. This is a fairly common sight to see these days, as the Met crack down with a blitz on unlicenced drivers, vehicles with no road tax, no insurance, and/or no MoT.

What was new to me this time, was the presence of this vehicle, the Mobile Processing Unit...

Apparently used a lot in Central London on such operations as anti-minicab-touting, revenue blitzes on the buses, and such like, this was the first time I'd seen the unit, so I blatantly asked the officer in charge of the blitz, a Chief Inspector, if I could have a quick look inside the MPU - he was quite happy to oblige...

Operated by Safer Transport Command (Formerly called TOCU, or "Transport Operations Command Unit", a joint Met and TfL command to provide coherent and timely policing on buses, bus routes, taxis and minicabs), The MPU is mounted on the back of a 12-ton rigid LGV, with the cargo unit on its' back converted to be much like a local Police Office, but with Suspect Processing Facilities instead of the usual office facilities.

Note that the MPU is most emphatically not a mobile custody suite (that's 'cell block' in old-style terminology); the idea, I was told by the Sergeant in charge of the unit, was to relieve the strain on local Police Stations by performing, with what he called low-level offenders, what could take between six and twelve hours in a busy Police Station, in a maximum of between two to four hours, in the MPU.

However, violent offenders, and those who started to create problems, he told me, would be dealt with in a more conventional manner, at any local Police Station, instead: The MPU doesn't have a cell for the unruly, after all, just a fairly cramped interview space, to gather statements and the like.

In terms of processing facilities, the MPU consists of a booking-in and reception desk (to the right of the photo, nearest the camera), and equipment to perform "livescan" fingerprinting, digital suspect photographing, DNA swabbing, interviewing, and low-level prisoner supervision (all in separate small rooms (more like broom cupboards in terms of space, but it's on the back of a truck, remember!) along the right of the corridor).

The entire thing is covered by CCTV cameras, both inside and out, of course (what Police facility isn't, these days?), and from what I could glean, the MPU generally does fairly well in its intended function; while I was at the stand, they didn't have any 'customers', but from what I saw, I wouldn't have thought that their 'customers' would want to repeat their appearances!

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