Mentorn Media’s docuseries, Inside the Force: 24/7, is back on Channel 5 tonight with the latest 12-part series following the officers of Cleveland Police.

Executive Producer, Tayte Simpson, explains how the production came together:

When we were initially developing Inside The Force, the starting point was how to come at police access from a different perspective, and frame it in a unique manner.  Rather than focus on one area, we wanted the flexibility to be able to cover a range of incidents and police work, but the challenge was how to give it a focus and thread everything together.

For the first series, we had potential access with Lincolnshire Police who were, at the time, one of the least funded forces in the country.  We started working together to come up with a way to best reflect that story, but with a format that would make it returnable.

We embedded with Lincolnshire Police for a few days, spending time in Lincoln Police Station meeting all the teams and observing what they do.  What struck us was the range of departments in one building, and how they worked together during incidents.  When Dispatchers in Force Control assign officers to a job, it triggers various teams and layers of policing, and we were particularly interested in the interactions between the teams in the station as a job progressed, passing from one department to another.

It became clear that capturing that dynamic and being able to intercut between teams in real-time was the USP for the series.  The station was the ideal hub to centre all the stories and we could use the building to connect the stories and departments.  It would also give us licence to follow a diverse range of jobs and themes whilst still maintaining that central focus.

We also wanted to show the inner workings of a police station, to pull back the curtain and reveal the moments and processes of police life you don’t normally get to see.  Dealing with an incident doesn’t stop at the custody desk and cells, officers go back to their desks and there’s still work to be done.

As we developed the format with Channel 5, we agreed that the series needed to be as visceral as possible and to stay in the moment at all times.  So, it would be actuality driven without any interviews – this gave added importance to the moments of station life, particularly between jobs.  Without sit-down interviews, we needed a way to establish characters, so the moments of station life became crucial for introducing officers and the dynamics in the teams.

To properly capture the interactions between the teams and follow the various stages of an incident, we decided to have five Producer / Directors all filming simultaneously on the same shift in different departments.

On most of the shifts, we filmed with a Custody Sergeant, a Dispatcher in Control, and three Response Officers, but we would move our teams around depending on what was happening, sometimes we embedded with Detectives or Proactive Task Teams, but we spread the Directors across departments who were likely to interact on a shift so we could still get that 360-degree coverage.

This approach came with some added pressures, as it meant we needed consenting officers in all the departments on the same shift, any holes resulted in losing the 360-degree storytelling. We had to be very tactical with staffing, as a ten-hour shift used up five days’ worth of producer director hire, so we had to be very strategic about what shifts to cover.

We spent a lot of time thinking about the building itself and how to not only make it an iconic part of the series, but also how to use it as a narrative device.  Together with the Series Director, and Director Of Photography, we planned shots around the building that could be used to move us between teams and stories.  By navigating around the outside of the building with a drone, we were able to come out of a scene in Custody on the ground floor, float upstairs and dip into a Response team meeting on the first floor or drift along the corridor down to CID.

We continued to develop the series when we got into the edit.  As we moved between stories and teams, we realised that the moments of station life were very useful for not only re-establishing the format, but they also acted as palate cleansers.  In the edit, we were very hungry for these vignettes and over the last three series we’ve lent more and more on these moments to create a grammar for the programmes, making them have a distinct feel.

For the latest series we have partnered with Cleveland Police, basing ourselves inside Middlesbrough Police Station.  It’s an area facing big challenges, they have the highest crime rates in the country and during filming our teams covered incidents ranging from a drive by shooting to an attempted murder of a teenage girl.

Inside the Force returns tonight at 9pm on Channel 5.

Jon Creamer

Share this story

Share Televisual stories within your social media posts.
Be inclusive: is open access without the need to register.
Anyone and everyone can access this post with minimum fuss.