Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Festus Akinbusoye has welcomed the new chair for the county’s independent panel which scrutinises how police powers are used.
Phil Dickson-Earle was recently appointed as the new chair of Bedfordshire’s respected independent stop and search scrutiny panel, following a stringent recruitment process by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
PCC Festus Akinbusoye said: “I am incredibly pleased to welcome Phil as the new chair of our renowned scrutiny panel and trust that he will continue the vital and impactful work being done in this space alongside deputy chair Renée.
“Police powers are vital tools to ensuring the safety of our community and preventing crime. However, it would be remiss of me as Police and Crime Commissioner to not address the fact that these same powers have not always been used fairly or proportionately.
“That is the purpose of the panel: to independently review the use of these tools, ensure accountability and a level of transparency for those it will affect the most – our community.
“Our scrutiny panel remains one of the most respected panels of its kind in the country, rightly catching the attention of our national and international counterparts. Recently I had the pleasure of being invited to the French Embassy to showcase our efforts in this matter, while forces across England and Wales are utilising our approach as best practice.”
The panel is made up of 27 independent members of the community from a range of diverse and representative backgrounds.
The panel holds the force to account by scrutinising the use of stop and search and other coercive policing tactics, while assessing individual cases, rating the application of police powers and identifying areas of concern.
Mr Dickson-Earle, a teacher, has stepped into the role of chairman after joining the panel in 2017.
“Statistics matter, a close friend once told me! If you are black, you are 4 times more likely to be stopped and searched and four times more likely to have force used against you than if you are white. If you are Asian, you are more than twice as likely. I joined the panel in 2017 and to say the least I was more than just a little cynical. However, this changed when I learned that the Bedfordshire scrutiny panel was being listened to and respected by police force leaders, so I knew I wasn’t wasting my time.
“In putting myself forward for the chair I knew there was a lot to live up to and a lot of responsibility. I’m particularly keen to ensure that the demographics of the panel members continued to reflect the community of Bedfordshire.
“In 1966 I immigrated to Britain from Jamaica at aged 6 to join my parents. Growing up in Tottenham and Lambeth, I experienced what for me was the usual encounters with the police. Those experiences for myself, family and friends shaped my view of policing. I am the father of two grown up sons, I work in education, and I have chosen to do this not only because of my own experiences but, for my boys, for the many thousands of students and parents I come across daily and for everyone who lives in Bedfordshire”.
This latest announcement follows the appointment of Renée Henry as the panel’s new deputy chair earlier this year.
Human Resources and Development professional, Renee Henry said: “I am an experienced senior leader with expertise in acting as a chair and deputy chair with a wide range of individuals. I believe my experience helps me approach things objectively and with a high level of emotional intelligence.
“My background in this field ensures I understand the importance of fair and transparent ways of working for all.
“As a mixed-race female in a male dominated industry, I find myself of resilient and broad character with a passion for equality, inclusion and diversity and ensuring all cultural and ethnic backgrounds are fairly represented and have a seat at the table.
“I am passionate about being on Bedfordshire’s scrutiny panel as I feel it is important to give back to my local community. In addition, police powers have been under much media scrutiny, and I would like to play a role in ensuring the processes and procedures are undertaken correctly and fairly and support the team to do so”.
Continuing in his bid to build trust and confidence with Bedfordshire residents, the PCC is set to launch a new stop and search and use of force newsletter as he highlights the ever-growing need for transparency in policing.
The new quarterly publication looks to provide the public with an insider’s view into the county’s scrutiny panel meetings, which assess the application of police powers.
The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner is currently recruiting additional volunteers to ensure the panels are fully representative of the local community. If you are aged between 16-18 and live in Bedfordshire, you can join the stop and search and use of force scrutiny panels by emailing PCC@beds.police.uk.