With some reservations I first took Rocky into Crawley custody centre in November 2018 where I was a custody inspector. Any concerns I had were very quickly allayed. Rocky was an absolute natural, he loved the attention from staff and one or two in particular took a real shine to him and encouraged me to officially introduce #CustodyDogDays
Rocky would quite often be ‘dognapped’ by other departments to provide a few moments light relief for those involved in long shifts and complex investigations.
However it turned out that one of his favourite things to do was to accompany me whilst I conducted ‘inspector reviews’ – visiting detainees in their cells, reminding them of their rights, entitlements, and checking on their welfare. I would always check with a detainee first that they are ‘OK with dogs’ and thankfully without exception every single person always was – and then I would let Rocky in to see them whilst I conducted the review.
Rocky was a talking point, common ground between two human beings, something to take people’s mind off their immediate concerns and cheer them up in a way that only a friendly dog saying hello can. It very quickly became apparent that Rocky was a natural born ‘de-escalator’. Visibly and tangibly reducing stress/anxiety in detainees, enabling more constructive conversations that facilitated an easier custody process for all involved.
At the end of 2020 I worked on a force project across all of the six Sussex custody centres, which saw Rocky widening his tour of duty, and in January 2021 ‘cross border’ to visit colleagues at Salfords custody suite in Surrey.
Since Rocky’s early days as the Crawley ‘custody doggo’ has expanded his portfolio of responsibilities somewhat.
Along with my job move to the force identification unit (FIU) Rocky has effectively become the ‘custody and force ID unit doggo’ but that is a bit of a mouthful.
Victims and witnesses of crime attend the FIU to try to identify a suspect that they have seen committing an offence. Attending a police station can be quite unsettling for some, the attendees can be young or vulnerable and very often the crime has had a traumatising effect.
The presence of Rocky gently padding about and keeping an eye on everyone has a positive effect on both staff and witnesses, breaking down barriers of process and procedure into a more relaxing environment, reducing stress and anxiety.
Rocky continues to frequent custody centres, always on the lookout for a quick snack or even a sandwich if someone is a little careless. He has also mentored CD Luther who assists senior health care practitioner Jess Isaacs in her duties around our custody centres – they are both trend setters.
Thankfully Sussex Police and in particular Chief Constable Jo Shiner have been very supportive of Rocky and wellbeing dogs in general and I was very proud when he became an OK9 dog.
Rocky the #CustodyDoggo has a way to go yet, and we hope that he continues to live his best life with Jason both at home and at work. Plans for the future consist of continuing the good work interspersed with an afternoon snooze and some snackos.
Well done Rocky.