PCC candidate’s campaign material to be investigated after complaints

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Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) logo

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) in Bedfordshire say they will be investigating campaign material used by the Conservative candidate Festus Akinbusoye, which uses images of him in his uniform when he was a special constable.

At least two complaints have been made to the OPCC and the PCC election returns officer over images used by the Conservative candidate Festus Akinbusoye which show him in a special constable uniform.

Mr Akinbusoye is the incumbent Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and has been in the position since 2021. Before he began campaigning for the position he served 200 hours as a ‘special’ and also undertook 200 hours of training.

However, using these images to highlight what Festus says gives him, ‘first hand insight into the pressures and realities that our police officers and staff face’, has been criticised with some saying it breaches the PCC Joint Protocol.

The Bedford Independent has seen one complaint about the use of these images sent to the Police Area Returning Officer and the OPCC.

The complainants say they find the use of the images ‘deeply problematic’ and suggest it gives a ‘misleading impression’ of the PCC’s role as it is ‘operationally independent from the police force, and cannot by law be held by a serving officer’.

They say the leaflet suggests Mr Akinbusoye is still a serving police officer.

The protocol

Section 6.1 of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Guidance on the use of photographs states:

  • 6.1.1 Any campaign material which uses existing police images or livery would, to the electorate, appear to show police support for a candidate and therefore under the general principles test should not be allowed.
  • 6.1.2 Forces should make it clear to all parties and prospective candidates that they do not have permission to use pre-existing photographs, livery or publicity involving officers or staff in their campaign publicity.
  • 6.1.3 Forces should request candidates to remove or withdraw such material if attempts are made to use them.

It’s this area of the protocal that the complainants believe Mr Akinbusoye is in breach of.

‘The fact that Mr Akinbusoye is, himself, the “officer” in this scenario does not make a difference, in my view, in fact it should be considered as an aggravating factor,’ adds the complainant.

We contacted Mr Akinbusoye for a comment on the use of images, and he did not respond.

However, he has taken to social media to call out the criticism which he attributes to his ‘opponents’ using ‘typical desperate political games played come election times’.

In a post across all his social accounts, Mr Akinbusoye continued, “Quite rightly, this experience [as a special] has influenced my decisions and priorities as a PCC.

‘How could seeing the impact of criminal and sexual exploitation of young people, domestic abuse, road traffic collisions, necessity (sic) of effective Stop and Search powers, the horrors of violent assaults, the sheer scale of drugs market in Bedfordshire and the organised criminality behind it etc not influence my decisions?’

‘My time as a Special also gave me a first hand insight into the pressures and realities that our police officers and staff face here in Bedfordshire. These have informed the welfare support that I commissioned for serving officers and staff, among other things.’

Investigation

The complainant says that regardless of Mr Akinbusoye’s time as a special officer, the images ‘undermine the political neutrality of Bedfordshire Police, which is especially essential during a period of election’.

Mr Akinbusoye, however, insisted in his social media posts that he’s not in breach of the protocol.

‘I am not the first election candidate to use a picture of themselves in a police, army, some kind of uniform here in Bedfordshire or Britain. I won’t be the last, and I won’t be deterred,’ he wrote.

The campaign material is now subject to an investigation.

Katie Beaumont, Head of Governance and Transparency at the OPCC told the Bedford Independent, “We have been made aware of concerns regarding the use of police-related imagery by a candidate in some of their election material.

“We are working with the Police Area Returning Officer (PARO) and National Police Chief’s Council to review the material to ascertain whether it is in breach of our local protocol.

“If it is determined to be so, the candidate will be asked to remove the image from their campaign material.”