No arrests needed at Bedfordshire protests amid Middle East crisis - despite rise in hate crime

Bedfordshire Police has got a "really good track record" of working closely with its communities
Chief constable Trevor Rodenhurst and PCC Festus Akinbusoye. Screenshot PCC and Chief Constable Accountability meeting 04.03.24. Image: LDRSChief constable Trevor Rodenhurst and PCC Festus Akinbusoye. Screenshot PCC and Chief Constable Accountability meeting 04.03.24. Image: LDRS
Chief constable Trevor Rodenhurst and PCC Festus Akinbusoye. Screenshot PCC and Chief Constable Accountability meeting 04.03.24. Image: LDRS

Bedfordshire Police has got a “really good track record” of working closely with its communities, the chief constable has said.

During this month’s Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable Accountability Meeting (March 4), the commissioner asked what the force’s position is on policing protests.

“I’m quite keen to know what level of engagement the force is having, specifically with both our Jewish and Muslim communities, around this very obviously political and quite charged issue of the conflict that’s going on in Israel and Palestine, and in Gaza specifically at the moment,” commissioner Festus Akinbusoye said.

The chief constable, Trevor Rodenhurst, said: “Locally, without doubt, there are two sections of our communities who since October 7 understandably feel less safe than they did before that date.

“The job of Bedfordshire Police is to provide reassurance to both of those communities, which we’ve been doing. And we’ve got a really good track record in this county of working closely with our communities and focusing on the issues that unite us and not divide us. Particularly cancelling any voices that would seek to divide us.”

“There’s a number of things we’re doing, there have been key conversations with individuals well placed in the community to echo those conversations. We’re one of the only forces that has a community cohesion team whose job it is to continually engage with our communities.

“In terms of the approach to protest, it is completely understandable given the profile of our communities that there is a strong desire to protest. The nature of protests we have seen within Bedfordshire has been members of our community protesting because they want to see peace in Gaza.

“Our response to policing those protests has been a low-key neighbourhood policing style approach. And in general we’ve had good engagement with those organising [the protests].

“I’m pleased to say we’ve made no arrests, we haven’t come close to that.” he said.

The commissioner asked if there had been any complaints or reports about Anti-Semitic posters or slogans or Islamophobic slogans and reports or any kind of racism.

“We did see an uptick in hate crime both of an Islamophobic and Anti-Semitic nature since October 7, and we’ve had a robust response to that,” the chief said.

He added that all such instances should be reported to the police.

“Because it’s not something we tolerate here in Bedfordshire,” he said.

Commissioner Akinbusoye said: “I want to just make sure that the law is enforced by the force, and that includes facilitating peaceful and lawful protest which is a very fundamental part of a democratic society.”

The chief added: “My personal view is that policing needs to build on the bedrocks of community policing.

“We need to be engaging with our communities at all times, not just when there’s difficulties,” he said.

Hate Crime can be reported online on the Bedfordshire Police website, or via 101. Call 999 if someone is in immediate danger.