Stop and search panel scrutinises Beds Police's use of force

Bedfordshire Police officers’ use of force has gone under the spotlight from members of the public.

By Stewart Carr
Thursday, 29th April 2021, 2:28 pm

Last week, the force’s stop and search scrutiny panel reviewed four examples of body-worn footage showing police use force, including placing people in handcuffs or restraining them.

The panel consists of people from different backgrounds across the county. It checks to ensure that use of force is necessary, proportionate, reasonable and used only to protect a person in cases for safeguarding.

As well as these, the panel members also review statistics around police powers, such as how many times they are used against people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Police (stock image)

A meeting last Thursday, April 22, also heard a first person account from a specialist firearms officer about how they use force and how this is recorded.

Superintendent Nick Skipworth, new lead for the use of force, said: “Police officers are entrusted with significant powers to help keep the public safe. It is absolutely imperative that these powers are used responsibly.

“We only police with the consent of all of our communities across Bedfordshire and we will continue to open our doors to the public and strive to be as transparent as possible.”

The community scrutiny panel meets every three months, reviews video footage of at least one example where use of force is used in police custody.

It is a sub group of the county’s scrutiny panel for stop and search, which has been highlighted by the Criminal Justice Alliance as an example of best practice.

Panel chairman Montell Neufville said: “We are aware that there is significant anxiety and in many cases mistrust in how the police exercise their use of force powers.

“There are times when it is necessary for force to be used. Officers must use only that amount of force required.

“We are often asked if the police listen and change. As this is quite a new process there are system changes that we have recommended to make scrutiny from both ourselves and the force leadership easier. Feedback is provided both to the officer and their supervisor.

“If we are not convinced that the level or type of force was necessary, they can be referred for action. The more both the data is scrutinised and the more videos we get to see, the better service improvements can be made which of course helps the entire community.”