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Commissioner calls on MPs to help police officers get back to policing

Commissioner calls on MPs to help police officers get back to policing

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye called on MPs to help police officers get back to policing during evidence to a parliamentary enquiry.

Mr Akinbusoye said cuts to other services had placed “unsustainable” additional demand on officers to take on “non-police police jobs” such as dealing with mental health crises, during his wide-ranging evidence to MPs on the home affairs select committee yesterday (Wednesday). 

He added he was “absolutely astounded” by some of the cases of misconduct detailed in a recent report by the police watchdog on vetting standards, as he called on commissioners to ensures forces are doing all they can to root out bad officers.

The commissioner was representing the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners in the committee’s enquiry looking at the future of policing priorities, alongside National Police Chiefs’ Council chairman Martin Hewitt and College of Policing CEO Andy Marsh.

“The fact is that too many officers are stuck in A&E, too many officers are dealing with mental health jobs. Our communities are not feeling the full benefit of this uplift in officers in my view,” said Mr Akinbusoye.

“In one of the smallest police forces in the country in terms of funding, Bedfordshire Police response teams spent 53,000 hours on mental health jobs alone, and spent an average of 174 minutes in A&E waiting for a handover in hospital.

“That was the equivalent of 28 full time police officers. That’s an entire response team doing nothing but just dealing with mental health jobs alone.

“Many of these will be new recruits, but they can’t be on the streets patrolling whilst they’re sat in A&E or looking for a missing person. That is something that needs to change.”

The commissioner reiterated his plans to bill other public services for such tasks, saying the current system was unsustainable.

The Bedfordshire PCC also raised successful joint initiatives underway in the county, such as the joint mental health street triage team featuring police officers, paramedics and mental health workers, as well as specialist mental health nurses in the force’s control room.

“These initiatives are great, but the level of demand from what I would call ‘non-policing policing demand’ is growing, and somehow we need to find a way of reducing that so the police can focus more of their time on what they’re supposed to be doing,” he added.

The commissioner was also asked about a national HMRCFRS report released this week, which highlighted a number of concerning findings around vetting, misconduct and misogyny in the police service. 

“Anyone who read this report will be absolutely astounded by some of the examples that were given,” Mr Akinbusoye told the committee.

“I can assure you that many of my colleagues… are asking very scrutinous questions of their chief constables.”

PCCs were investing more money into vetting, Mr Akinbusoye said, including the collaborated unit between Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire police forces.

“I have seen first-hand the amount of powers that police officers have, which puts them in a very unique position compared to average members of the public,” he added.

“With that level of power must come an accepted level of scrutiny. Police officers and police staff must be willing to accept that quite rightly, the public expect questions to be answered and standards to be set much higher.”

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