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Serving under ten Chief Constables in nearly 43 year career

It’s Local and Community History Month and we have spoken to one of our longest serving members of staff at Bedfordshire Police, Carol Farmer, about all the different Chief Constables she has encountered during her outstanding career history of almost 43 years.

Carol joined the force in 1976 and has seen ten Chief Constables lead the force during this time, out of a total of 16 since Bedfordshire Police was formed. After the present Chief Constable Jon Boutcher announced he is leaving last month, she will welcome a new chief into the service. On Friday (24 May) current Deputy Chief Constable, Garry Forsyth, was announced as the next Chief Constable of Bedfordshire.

Force Focus Carol Farmer naming chief constables

Here are Carol's memories:      

“Over the years the appointment process of Chief Constables has changed considerably. Bedfordshire Police’s first Chief Constable Captain Edward Moore Boultbee joined in 1840 and served  for 31 years after coming from a military background. Whereas today the employment is under a tenure method, where you have to progress through the policing ranks before you can make Chief.

“My first Chief Constable was Anthony Armstrong. I first met him during my first attestation parade, at the former Police Headquarters at The Pines in Goldington Road, Bedford, before the purpose built headquarters was created in Kempston. I really wanted to make a good impression, I was so pleased when it went perfectly and he walked up and down the line greeting all the new recruits. We were in full uniform and, as the only female, for me this included a skirt, trousers were not allowed for Women Police Constables (WPCs) as we were known then, a box style hat, a double breasted jacket, which didn’t keep you warm or dry at all, as well as a long handled handbag to carry our small custom made truncheons. It was quite different from the heavy kit officers have to carry around today.

“It was one of the proudest moments of my life becoming a police officer. I was only 20, but I knew there was no other job out there for me. In those days our actual attestation ceremony took place at Bedfordshire Magistrates’ Court, in St Paul’s Square, Bedford, where I made my sworn oath in front of a magistrate. As I was the only female of my intake I had to go to a different training school in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry, which trained WPCs, whereas all the men went to Eynsham in Oxford.  

“I remember the force’s tenth Chief Constable Alan Dyer (pictured with Carol below) well, who served from 1985 to 1996, for his astounding memory of remembering everyone’s first name and for his warmth and friendliness. He was a truly modern leader who started the culture change towards Bedfordshire becoming a family friendly force. He presented me with a commendation in 1987 after I tackled a burglar in The Broadway, Bedford. I spotted the man on the roof where a hole had been cut after attempting to break into premises. He ran along the roof tops when he saw my police Mini. I worked out where he would end up, jumped out the car, tackled him to the ground as he got down from the roof and arrested him. By this point a crowd of people had emerged and everyone was clapping me. It even made the local papers. Mr Dyer commended me for my “vigilance and prompt and courageous action”.

 Carol Farmer Chief Dyer attestation ceremony


“He was one of the most personable chief constables I have ever come across. He wrote me a personal letter when I was admitted to hospital in 1992 to check I was ok and it’s little things like that that really stay with you. In 1995 when he retired I volunteered to form part of his retirement parade, which was great to be able to speak to him and say goodbye.    

“I met the next Chief Constable Michael O’Byrne (pictured below), on receipt of my first Long Service Award and Good Conduct Medal, awarded after a 22 year career. I never expected then I would be in line for another. I also had a one to one chat with the force’s first female Chief Constable Gillian Parker in 2007 when I retired as a uniformed officer. We reminisced about joining the force as WPCs, dealing with ‘women’s issues’, which involved cases with any female or child victims, and talking about how times have thankfully changed for women officers.

O'Byrne and Carol long service

“I later returned to a police staff position that year, with the Criminal Justice and Custody Department, as a Performance and Compliance Officer. In April 2016 the department collaborated and became the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Criminal Justice and Custody, and in 2017 I was presented by our present Chief Constable Jon Boutcher (pictured), with a Certificate of Service to Bedfordshire Police for 40 years. We had a lovely chat over a cup of tea and looked through my scrapbook of photos, awards and article of my time with the force and talked about the changes in policing over the years. Mr Boutcher will be missed, but I look forward to welcoming another chief into the Bedfordshire Police family.”

L - R - Jon Boutcher and Carol Farmer

For further information about Carol’s career visit our Bobbies on the Beat Blog.

Bedfordshire Police’s Chief Constables through the ages:

  • 1840–1871 : Captain Edward Moore Boultbee
  • 1871–1879 : Major Ashton Cromwell Warner
  • 1880–1910 :  Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick John Josselyn
  • 1910–1939 :  Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Frank Augustus Douglas Stevens
  • 1940–1953 : Commander William John Adlam Willis
  • 1953–1971 : Henry Prichard Pratt
  • 1971–1979 : Anthony Armstrong
  • 1979–1983 : William George Mackenzie Sutherland
  • 1983–1985 : Sir Andrew Kirkpatrick Sloan
  • 1985–1996 : Alan Dyer
  • 1996–2001 : Michael O'Byrne
  • 2001–2005 : Paul David Hancock
  • 2005–2010 : Gillian Parker
  • 2011–2013 : Alf Hitchcock
  • 2013–2015 : Collette Paul
  • 2015 -2019 : Jonathan Michael Boutcher

 Bedfordshire Police Chiefs 1840 to 1990


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