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Chief Constable and PCC congratulate force as Bedfordshire Police's improvements are recognised in landmark decision by police watchdog
Bedfordshire’s Chief Constable, Jon Boutcher, and Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway are today thanking every officer and member of staff after the force passed a significant milestone for improvement in the eyes of the police watchdog.

In a key meeting at the London headquarters of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies & Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) yesterday (Thursday, 24 May), a decision was taken to remove Bedfordshire Police from the group of forces which are considered to present official ‘causes for concern’ and who are required to meet regularly with officials and representatives from the inspectorate, the Home Office, College of Policing, National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners to explain their actions to address the issues identified by inspectors (HMIs).

Mr Boutcher said: “For us to be removed from these measures is fabulous news and is recognition of the improvements which have been made across the force by everyone. It also shows that we have sustainable long term plans in place to make sure this force goes from strength to strength.

“I’m hugely grateful for the support of PCC Kathryn Holloway and for the continued hard work and determination of every member of Bedfordshire Police.”

Chief Constable Boutcher updated the meeting of the inspectorate’s Policing Performance Oversight Group (PPOG) on Bedfordshire Police’s progress, as promised, in rolling out some eight Community Hubs of police officers in towns across the county, with an additional Hub at Luton Airport on top of the seven pledged to HMICFRS and partners such as MPs and local authorities. He explained the force had also been ahead of schedule in identifying and recruiting officers for these roles by November 2017 rather than the deadline of April 2018.

“There is no doubt that both public confidence and the morale of Bedfordshire’s police officers and staff are all impacted by critical reports from the police watchdog. This is doubly true if a force is selected to be one of the comparatively small group which is subject to the ongoing scrutiny of its Policing Performance Oversight Group (PPOG). This is the reason why this decision is of such enormous importance to everyone in the force and to me, as the public’s voice on policing,” said Commissioner Holloway.

“What was also particularly important to me was that so many of the aspects of the progress shown by Bedfordshire Police were singled out for praise at the meeting with special emphasis on the speed with which improvements have been made since the force received a uniquely critical grading just over a year ago, in March 2016. These included problem-solving in communities, the work being done to drive home the culture the Chief Constable and I require to protect the most vulnerable children - often in the care of local authorities - who may frequently abscond and that being done both within the Force Control Room and with partners, like local councils, in this area.

“I pointed, in the meeting, to the outstanding progress made in driving down the length of time over which such vulnerable young people are missing, which was once over 90 hours on average, to less than eight today. I also drew attention to the work being done with councils to encourage so-called ‘return interviews’ with these individuals to try to get to the bottom of why they absconded in the first place, with 87% being given this opportunity in the last quarter - a rise of some 50%. A lot of forces talk about joint working and the need to work in partnership to improve policing but this is what it looks like in reality,” she said.

The decision to remove the force from the watchdog’s enhanced scrutiny (from ‘Engage’ to ‘Scan’) was recommended by Bedfordshire Police’s Acting Inspector, HMI Matt Parr, who pointed in the meeting to the speed over which the Force had improved since receiving a grading of ‘inadequate' in its Effectiveness report in March 2016. The Chief Inspector, Sir Tom Winsor, said he was happy to accept the recommendation, given the “positive trajectory” of the force. Sir Tom also encouraged his organisation to follow Bedfordshire Police’s example in its national training event concerning protection of vulnerable young people by inviting Sammy Woodhouse, one of the whistle-blowers who exposed the Rochdale and Rotherham child abuse scandal, citing his visit to the force’s annual Better4Bedfordshire events to establish the ‘culture’ expected of officers and staff saying how impressed he had been. “It was not just what she said but how she said it,” said Sir Tom.

Representing the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Northamptonshire Chief Constable, Simon Edens, said how impressed he was by the approach to problem solving in communities, exemplified by one of Bedfordshire’s Police Now graduate recruits who had approached the national management of a discount chainstore to negotiate more secure storage and oversight of knives on sale after the discovery of knife packaging carrying its brand in Luton town centre. His comments were also endorsed by the College of Policing.

Kent PCC, Matthew Scott, the portfolio lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners on policing standards praised the work of Bedfordshire’s PCC in convening partners to produce genuine improvements in policing and community safety in the county.

He said: “All the officers and staff in Bedfordshire should be immensely proud of their force’s vast improvement over the last two years. They have been well supported by their PCC who has shown leadership and determination in helping deliver change and ensuring accountability. Kathryn has also shown exactly why we need great PCCs like her who will use their powers to bring partners to the table to work together and keep residents safe.”