Mixed bag for Bedfordshire Police after inspectors' find room for improvement

They scored well for managing offenders but need to improve investigating crime and call handling

By Clare Turner
Wednesday, 13th April 2022, 12:02 am

Bedfordshire Police has been rated as ‘outstanding’ for the way it manages offenders, which has seen a 91% reduction in burglars re-offending.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for the force which was graded ‘adequate’ for protecting vulnerable people and ‘requires improvement’ in both responding to the public and investigating crime.

The force was the first one in the country to receive the ‘outstanding’ grading for managing offenders following an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Bedfordshire Police HQ

Inspectors found 72% of those under Bedfordshire Police’s integrated offender management scheme had stopped or reduced offending in 2020/21, including a 91% reduction among known burglars.

The approach is estimated to have saved society more than £2.3 million across all crime in 2020/21.

Bedfordshire Police also received ‘good’ ratings in four areas:

Engaging with and treating the public with respect

Preventing crime and anti-social behaviour

Building supporting and protecting the workforce

Strategic planning, organisational management and value for money

The inspection praised the force across a range of areas including work on digital engagement and ensuring ethical use of stop and search and use of force powers.

The work to tackle cyber crime including the innovative use of four digital vans to assess and secure evidence in high-risk investigations was also highlighted as good practice.

But areas for improvement included call handling in the force contact centre and oversight of investigations to better protect victims, including the use of orders such as Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) – with only 14 issued during 2020/21.

However, since the inspection the force’s use of DVPOs is on track to exceed more than 200 for 2021/22 – following changes to give greater supervision and the formation of a separate ‘safeguarding and intervention team’.

A full-scale review of the force contact centre has also taken place focusing on investing in staff and making best use of technology. A new approach is set to be launched later this year.

Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “It’s also particularly pleasing the inspectors recognised the work we are doing around transparency, including the independent scrutiny we invite on stop and search and use of force – that is so crucial to building trust and confidence with the public.

“While the positives are great, perhaps more important is to identify areas for improvement, particularly when it involves victim care. The HMICFRS process gives us independent insight and can help shine a light on areas in need of focus.”

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said: “The fact the areas for improvement that the inspectorate has identified came as no surprise to the force executive says to me that the leadership of the force knows where more attention and investment needs to be made.

"Feedback from residents about the time taken to answer some 999 and 101 calls made it very clear more needs to be done. Call handling and the oversight of investigations were already highlighted to me as areas for concern by the chief constable but investment was needed to deliver sustainable improvements.

"And that is where some of the increase in this year’s council tax precept is going, straight into the areas that need to be improved.