Spending time in police cells is usually something to be avoided at all costs – but yesterday in Leeds, people were queueing up for the chance to get inside.
Tours of the custody cells in the new £34m Leeds District Headquarters on Elland Road were the surprise hit of the fun-packed police open day.
They were among a host of activities and attractions including a display of classic and modern police vehicles, Taser demonstrations, bouncy castle and face painting.
Chief Inspector Nik Adams, from Leeds District leadership team, said the event had been a huge success attracting “thousands”.
He said: “It was a great opportunity to showcase all the work that goes on behind the scenes.”
Asked what the public had been most interested in, he said: “The tours of the building – particularly the tours of the custody suite, they’ve been really popular.
“We had to limit numbers, so we had to disappoint some people.
“They really wanted to see if it is like it looks on TV and what we have got here is a state-of-the-art custody facility, so in some respects they were quite impressed.”
The custody suite contains 40 cells which have been specially designed to stop prisoner suicides.
There are even lockable boxes outside each cell for prisoners’ smelly shoes, with specially-made ducts to extract the odour.
Open day visitors could also hear from a reformed criminal and a retired prison officer about their experiences.
Youngsters were thrilled at being able to dress up in mini uniforms, as well as posing with Percy the police car, having their fingerprints taken, making a personalised wanted poster and solving “crimes” in an interactive crime scene.
Volunteers from St John Ambulance attended, recruiting new helpers and handing out pocket-sized guides featuring five life-saving tips such as dealing with choking, CPR and the recovery position.
The new police station, built under the private finance initiative, replaced those at Holbeck and Millgarth.
It opened in April and houses more than 1,000 staff.