A day in the life of a Detainee Custody Officer (Overseas Escorting)

Untypically, I’m up at 9am today for a job that is scheduled to take place at 2pm. I’ve made sure I have a change of clothes for three days because we can never be sure of how long a job may take. My work varies; today I’m escorting a detainee on a flight and the next shift I could be undertaking driving duties.

I arrive at the office and grab the paperwork for the day and see that today, it’s me, two colleague Escorts, a medic and a driver. As Team Leader, I brief the team on our way to the collection point; covering the detainee’s age, background and any special needs. Today it’s a Ugandan National, who I will call John, in his twenties who has been released having served a prison sentence. We need a medic with us because John also suffers from depression.

At the Immigration Removal Centre, we firstly ask the staff about John to ascertain his likely mood. He is then brought down to us and we introduce ourselves, shaking his hand. I always ask how the detainee is feeling about the removal. John tells me he understands what is about to happen and is happy to go home. We nevertheless undertake a thorough search of his person to make sure he has no means of self harm and then accompany him, with his luggage, to our van.

At Heathrow, I am dropped off to collect the travel documents and tickets. It’s all there but sometimes our job has to be aborted at this point because of paperwork errors or missing documentation. I rendezvous with the van and by now John is hungry and so I buy some sandwiches and coffee for everybody. We have a special entry gate onto the airside part of the airport and we drive directly to the aircraft stand.

I brief the flight crew and dispatcher on today’s task and receive permission to board early before any other passengers are allowed on board the scheduled flight. We take off for a six-hour flight to Nairobi. John sits between two escorts at all times but is otherwise unrestrained, my judgement being that this detainee is likely to be compliant. We maintain a constant stream of conversation with John, establishing a rapport and he remains calm although, sadly, this is not always the case.

Upon landing at Nairobi, we make a connecting flight to our end destination Entebbe, a flight lasting a further 45 minutes. At our end destination, we meet the Ugandan officials who recognise us from previous journeys and we receive a warm welcome. This is typical of Entebbe but is not always true for other countries. After some questioning from the Ugandan authorities, they accept John into their charge and our work is done after lots more handshaking.

All that remains is the small matter of returning home and eventually getting back to my bed at 10pm on the following day.

“Tomorrow will bring a new detainee, a new destination and a new challenge.”

Mark Brown
Duty Manager and Senior Detainee Custody Officer

Detainee Custody Officer | About the job

No two days are the same for a Detainee Custody Officer (DCO). You’ll come into contact with people from all walks of life on a daily basis as well as liaising with other G4S colleagues along with a wide variety of other
people including immigration officials, airport personnel and overseas authorities.

Are you the person we’re looking for?

Being a DCO isn’t always plain sailing. It requires motivation, determination, initiative, adaptability and flexibility. You will be dealing with a wide variety of people as well as following standard processes and procedures in line with training and regulations, so the ability to follow instructions and respond positively is vital.

We need people from a broad range of backgrounds with life experience who are good at listening to others, vigilant, non-judgmental and able to remain calm and in control under pressure. As part of our team of DCOs you’ll face many challenges so you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and use your initiative.

What will I be doing?
  • Accompanying detainees on scheduled or charter flights to their country of origin
  • Undertaking group repatriation on UKBA charter flights
  • Driving detainees and colleagues to the aircraft
  • Ensuring the welfare and security of the detainee is maintained at all times
  • Maintaining security and taking appropriate action to prevent escapes
  • Liaising with immigration officials, airport personnel and overseas authorities
  • Dealing with vulnerable and difficult detainees in a calm and professional manner to reduce risks to safety and security
  • Processing detainees, preparing documentation and ensuring that all paperwork is accurate and current
Frequently asked questions

What are the working hours?
Due to the nature of the role, start and finish times will vary according to flights and the needs of the business. You will be on call according to a shift rota and must be available for duty at any time 24 hours a day whilst on call. Actual hours worked will depend upon the job you have been tasked with. Overnight stays may also be required depending on the destination.

Will I be working with the same people all the time?
You will work alongside other DCOs to ensure that the detainees in our care are returned to their country of origin with dignity and respect. Travelling to a wide variety of destinations across the world means that you’ll come into contact with people of many nationalities and cultures so the ability to build relationships and trust quickly is vital.

Do I need previous experience in this type of work?
No. We welcome applications from people from all backgrounds with life experience and a common sense
approach. Your positive attitude, motivation and non-judgmental disciplined approach are essential to succeed.

What training will I receive?
In order to become a DCO, you’ll attend our comprehensive Home Office approved Initial Training Course (ITC) which covers skills such as communication, security, first aid and control and restraint. The ITC is followed by an induction and on-job training where you will work with more experienced DCOs in order to gain more practical experience of all aspects of the job.

When would I start work?
It can take up to 16 weeks before your security checks are complete. These checks include a 10 year employment history check, Counter Terrorist Clearance (DCO Accreditation) and an Enhanced Criminal Records Check carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau. You will also need to have been resident in the UK for a minimum period of three years to be eligible.

What are the benefits of working for G4S?
We invest heavily in our people and offer benefits that you would expect from a large quality organisation including generous holiday entitlement, life assurance, company pension, sick pay scheme, comprehensive training, career development and a uniform.