Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Festus Akinbusoye has thanked the county’s independent custody visitors for their support and dedication after volunteers visited almost 400 people in police custody in Bedfordshire last year.
To mark the start of Volunteer’s Week, Bedfordshire’s PCC has shared his appreciation for independent custody visitors (ICVs), who voluntarily conduct visits to the county’s custody suites and engage with detainees to ensure they are treated fairly and properly.
Consisting of local residents from various backgrounds and ages, ICVs carry out unannounced visits to police custody suites to ensure the welfare of detainees, while strengthening public confidence in police practices.
Between April 2022 and March of this year, ICVs conducted 104 visits to Bedfordshire Police custody suites in Kempston and Luton, visiting 395 individuals.
Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “Independent custody visitors play a vital role in ensuring that anyone arrested and detained by the police has access to the appropriate facilities and support, regardless of their alleged offences.
“The work of our volunteers informs the priorities of my office and feeds into the force’s operational activities concerning both custody suites. It’s crucial that this role is undertaken by individuals completely independent of the force, which puts the community we serve in a real position of influence while assuring the wider community that we are committed to keeping detainees safe.
“I am consistently impressed by the level of commitment, professionalism and determination of our volunteers and would like to express my gratitude for their efforts and ongoing support.”
As part of their role, ICVs are empowered to highlight any concerns they have and complete a report of their findings, which is fed back to the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner and the police force.
Independent Custody Visitors Lead, Stephen O’Connor said: “The ICV scheme is essential in providing the Chief Constable, PCC and the general public reassurance that detainees are being held safely, with respect, dignity and fairness. I believe that the scheme and involvement of local residents is an excellent way to show the wider community how the force and Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner are proactively working to ensure the wellbeing of all detainees.”
ICVs come from all sections of the community. They must be aged over 18, reside in Bedfordshire and be a resident in the United Kingdom for at least three years prior to the date of application. No specific qualifications are required as full training and support is provided; however, visitors should be good listeners, non-judgmental and unbiased.
To find out more about independent custody visiting or if you’d like to apply, visit https://www.bedfordshire.pcc.police.uk/independent-custody-visiting/ or email PCC@beds.police.uk