ONE of Gwent Police's most senior officers said frontline policing will not be affected by plans to replace custody staff with police officers.

Deputy Chief Constable Jeff Farrar told the Argus: "Frontline policing will not suffer because of these changes."

As reported previously, Gwent Police are planning to cut 15 of the 30 custody detention officers (CDOs) in Newport and Ystrad Mynach, replacing them with police officers.

Mr Farrar said the two custody suites rarely run at full capacity - Newport has 30 cells, Ystrad Mynach has 31, and they deal with around 20,000 people a year.

Each suite is staffed with three sergeants, three CDOs and one inspector. Mr Farrar said, on average, they have eight to ten people in custody.

CDOs cannot work out on the street and Mr Farrar said, in quiet periods, they are 'glued in those custody suites' and these plans give the force more flexibility.

By staffing suites with a mix of CDOs and police officers, officers can be sent out on patrol if there isn't a demand in custody and, in turn, if there is a rise in arrests, they can be recalled.

Officers will not be allowed to book someone into custody if they were involved in the arrest.

Mr Farrar said the force accepted there would be an immediate financial hit with redundancy payments if staff could not find another job within the force on the redeployment list within six months, but said they could save around £100,000 a year in the long run.

He said he had no concerns about officers working in a new environment as they would be trained and have experienced sergeants and CDOs working alongside them: "We're talking about intelligent, professional and capable people who I trust," he said.

Mr Farrar said there are no current plans to replace police staff with police officers in other departments.

He said the CDOS affected Òhave been loyal to Gwent Police, committed and theyÕve been tremendous. ItÕs a very difficult position weÕre in and I do sympathiseÓ. He said there is no set date for when decisions will be finalised.