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Bedfordshire Police achieves a turnaround in gradings by the police watchdog to 'Good' at keeping people safe

6 Feb 2020

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, and Chief Constable Garry Forsyth are marking a turnaround in the assessment of the force by policing watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

In giving Bedfordshire Police an overall grade of ‘Good’ for police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy, the watchdog has acknowledged the pace of improvement and quality of delivery in a force which it had previously graded as ‘Inadequate’ in 2016 (the only force in England and Wales to receive this grade at that time) and as ‘Requires Improvement’ in 2017, although Commissioner Holloway and her former Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, challenged the inadequate grade when it was published in 2017.

“I’m absolutely delighted, of course, that Bedfordshire Police has been recognised for the progress and continuous improvement that's been delivered by a genuine partnership between the OPCC, chief constables and every single officer and member of staff working together shoulder-to-shoulder to deliver strong service to the public, especially given the small size of the force compared with the very serious crime challenges it faces.

"I never accepted that the ‘Inadequate’ grade, which focused on a lack of Community Policing in particular, was a fair assessment, saying at the time that we were 'a half-built house’ as my former Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, was genuinely delivering on my Police and Crime Plan and Bedfordshire Police was already in the process of returning Neighbourhood Policing in Community Hubs right across the county at the time,” said Commissioner Holloway.

“One difference now, of course, is that Bedfordshire Police can supply  proof to the watchdog of what those community teams have achieved in terms of problem-solving to address the type of lower level crime issues that affect people so much, from drug use to anti-social behaviour and street drinking to homelessness, with this approach being built into crime prevention. As just one isolated example, anti-social behaviour in Houghton Regis has dropped by 49 per cent in the last year and you don’t get that sort of progress in a force which is not stepping up to the plate when it comes to delivery.

“Bedfordshire Police can also point to the particular strength of its activities to identify the drugs market, serious organised crime and gang issues, sharing findings with partners and working to tackle them together. This has been so exemplary that other forces now come to learn from us and Government funding has been drawn in as an investment such as the Special Grant to pay for the force’s specialist Boson unit to respond to gang, gun and knife crime and the newly-created Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit, funding police to work with agencies such as health, local councils and communities to address the causes at grass roots," said the PCC.

HMICFRS Inspectors carried out its latest ‘PEEL' assessment in July last year – which covers all of Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy in a new integrated inspection (rather than the previous single subject inspections) and which grades all 43 forces in England and Wales.

The inspectors looked at departments across the force, focusing on how effectively Bedfordshire Police reduces crime and keeps people safe, how efficiently the force operates and how sustainable its services are and how legitimately it treats the public and its workforce, giving Bedfordshire Police the overall grading of ‘Good'. Inspectors praised multiple areas, including:

· Introducing Victim Engagement Officers in the specialist Emerald team to further improve the service to victims of domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault

· Understanding, identifying, supporting and safeguarding vulnerable people, particularly officers working alongside the Signpost Hub to support victims of crime.  

· The professionalism, empathy and compassion of call handlers in the Force Contact Centre (control room)

· The  use of orders such as dispersal powers and community protection notices to tackle anti-social behaviour

· Responding to people with mental health conditions – particularly through the Mental Health Street Triage team; a partnership approach to helping those in crisis

· Partnership working – particularly around information sharing relating to high-risk victims, offenders and locations

Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “This is fabulous news and is testament to all of the hard work of our officers and staff. The report describes Bedfordshire Police as ‘an ambitious force with a positive culture’ and I’m delighted that it particularly praised our work around identifying and helping vulnerable people – recognising our dedication to protecting people and keeping them safe.

“While we disagreed with previous gradings, we have worked tirelessly, with the support of HMICFRS, to address their areas of concern and ensure we were as efficient and effective as possible.

“My predecessor Jon Boutcher should take a huge amount of credit for leading the Force during this time – and I would also like to thank our communities and partners for their ongoing support.

“We continue to strive for excellence and will be going through the report to identify any areas which could be developed further to improve the service to our communities.”

The only area of the report that inspectors deemed to ‘Require Improvement’ was future planning.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway said: “The fact that inspectors found the future planning aspect to be an area to be addressed is entirely understandable given the current police funding formula which leaves Bedfordshire Police still under-resourced to deal with the complex crime it faces on a daily basis. In fact, the report makes it abundantly clear that Bedfordshire Police requires an enhanced funding settlement, despite the 36 officers it will receive as part of the national uplift of 20,000 in 2020/21.

“The sheer fact that I've had to apply for Special Grant Funding two years running, simply to deal with Bedfordshire’s gang, gun and knife crime, shows the enormity of our financial challenges. Thankfully, I am expecting news of a second Special Grant any day now.

"Until the final rebalancing of national police funding, which we’ve been promised, is secured, full future planning in such an uncertain financial climate is nigh on impossible. However, we did engage the highly respected policing consultancy Crest to map Bedfordshire Police's current and future demand and predict what we will need to deal with it. The findings have informed the Force Management Statements that we have delivered to the watchdog HMICFRS, along with every other force, which it has subsequently singled out as exemplary,” said Commissioner Holloway.


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