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Farewell from Festus Akinbusoye

Farewell from Festus Akinbusoye

As you will know by now, I am moving on from my role as Police and Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire after three incredible years. In that time, I have had the honour to lead a fantastic team of people in the OPCC and provide strategic direction and challenge to Bedfordshire Police through my Police and Crime Plan. Being responsible for the totality of policing in Bedfordshire is no small task and comes with conflicting demands and priorities. I am grateful for the support of Chief Constable Trevor Rodenhurst, and his predecessor Garry Forsyth, and to Anna Villette, the OPCC Chief Executive. They are outstanding leaders and Bedfordshire is lucky to have them. To my deputy PCC Ian Dalgarno, I offer my heartfelt thanks for the support and assistance he has provided over the last two years.

I leave the office knowing that victims of crime in Bedfordshire are now supported better than ever before with more money going into interventions to tackle violence against women and girls, serious youth violence, and activity to disrupt drug supply and the organised criminal gangs who exploit some of the most vulnerable in society. I would like to thank all the commissioned partners who I have funded, their work is unseen until people need it and is truly life changing.

I am proud that, under my watch, there are now more police officers in our communities than ever before. This has not happened by accident and takes a strong Commissioner to be able to convince a Chief Constable that community policing needs to be protected and strengthened in the wake of the other high harm demand that Bedfordshire faces.

I am humbled by the fact that I have personally interacted with more young people in our schools and through my youth conferences than any other Police and Crime Commissioner in the country. Being able to divert young people away from poor decisions and a pathway to criminality, to improve their confidence through my debating competitions and encourage them to reach for the stars was one of the things I set out to achieve when I was elected. I continue to be blown away by the number of emails and messages from teachers, parents and grandparents who tell me that my interactions with their children have had such an impact.

I was the first Black Police and Crime Commissioner to be elected in the country and never underestimated the great responsibility that brought. I hope I have been that role model and inspired other people, irrespective of their race, religion and background, especially our young people, to strive to succeed in whatever they choose to do. I hope too, that the efforts all police forces are making to improve policing for Black people in our communities continues to gather pace and we see results across the country, as we have done here in Bedfordshire, where disproportionality is driven out and people from our minority communities regain trust and confidence in policing.

To the brilliant team in the OPCC, I wish you continued success. You have been the best team anyone could hope to work with. To the officers, staff and volunteers of Bedfordshire Police I want you to know that you are incredible. Front line policing is tough and relentless. I chose to find out for myself about this as a Special Constable. The demands on you show no signs of abating and now, more than ever, all community leaders and politicians need to double down on efforts to support the hard-working women and men who serve and protect our communities and who deserve our respect and gratitude.

To residents and members of the public, I want to tell you how much our police officers, staff and volunteers work to keep us all safe. Policing is more difficult, challenging and complex than most will ever appreciate. In my time as a Special Constable and as the Police and Crime Commissioner, I have never met anyone from Bedfordshire Police with nothing to do. 24/7, every day of the year there are police officers, staff and volunteers doing something to help someone in our county. Bedfordshire Police and policing as a whole need the support of all of us.

Finally, I call upon whichever government is in place after the next election to resolve the issue of police funding. It is not right that Bedfordshire continues to be funded as a rural force when it must deal with criminality of a Metropolitan area or group of London boroughs. It is not enough that I have secured millions of pounds through special grants from the Home Office to fund work to combat the serious and organised crime gangs operating in our communities. It is also not enough that I have brought in grants to tackle the proliferation of guns and gangs across the county and the associated scourge of serious youth violence. The outdated funding formula that Labour brought in two decades ago to favour their heartlands must be revised. Whilst I am very proud of the innovation, efficiency and effectiveness in Bedfordshire that has developed out of necessity because of the paucity of funding, there must be proper recognition in the funding formula of the demand on our police officers, and the realities of crime and criminality in our Bedfordshire communities.

To my successor, I wish you the very best moving forward. Remember, if it’s not broke, why break it. You are inheriting a police force that is one of the best performing in the country and an OPCC that is held in high regard by partners and the civil servants at the Ministry of Justice and Home Office.

For those of you who will want to know what next for me, I say watch this space. It has been an honour to serve the people and communities of Bedfordshire and I look forward to continuing not do so in one way, shape or form.


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