Ahead of the Police and Crime Commissioner election on Thursday 6 May, the Bedford Independent has spoken to each of the candidates to find out their plans for policing across the county.
We will be publishing our interviews with each of the candidates in alphabetical order.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bedfordshire Police in 2021?
Violent crime in Bedfordshire has more than doubled in the past seven years. The plan we have at the moment simply is not working.
I have been knocking on doors across the county and speaking to residents – they are tired of seeing headlines about violence in our towns.
It is time for a re-think about how we tackle violent crime in Bedfordshire. I want to rebuild our crime plan around residents and local businesses, so they have a proper say in how we deal with this issue.
Knife crime is an issue that has had a personal impact on me. While serving with the Police, I was stabbed in the line of duty.
I know the impact this offence has on the victim of the crime; it is mentally and physically traumatic in the extreme. What is often forgotten is the impact the offence can have within our communities themselves. It causes a ripple effect, creates further tension on the streets, and can leave families worrying about where their children are each evening.
Throwing money at this issue will not make it go away. We need policing that is integrated into our communities, with Officers that are relatable and accessible.
Bedfordshire Police is funded as a rural force, despite urban centres including Luton and Bedford, plus an airport and high levels of organised crime. How will you address the government’s funding of the force?
Since the Tories walked into Downing Street in 2010, Bedfordshire Police has been desperately underfunded.
We simply do not have the resources or the officers at our disposal to tackle rising crime rates. I want to be a Police and Crime Commissioner who puts up a fight for Bedfordshire and gets us the funding we need.
I know that Bedfordshire Police staff and officers go above and beyond for Bedfordshire, whatever the circumstances may be, but they deserve better than this.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, I want to give them the resources to do what Bedfordshire residents expect and deserve.
In February, I wrote to every Bedfordshire MP, of all political affiliations, asking them to raise the issue of funding for Bedfordshire Police in Parliament.
I will take inspiration from the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, in how he stood up to the Government and demanded a better deal for his city. It is time that Bedfordshire had the same for its police force.
I will support our police, statutory agencies, charities, community groups and Members of Parliament in creating a united front for funding. As our towns continue to grow and more people realise that Bedfordshire is a wonderful place to live, we should get the funding to match that growth.
This is not about politics- it is about common sense.
Violet youth crime, gang culture and county lines drug dealing are all prevalent in Bedfordshire. What do you propose to do to tackle these issues among the county’s young people?
We need to unite behind tackling this issue so that everyone – from corner shop owners to train station staff, to teachers- know how to spot the early signs of exploitation and how to notify the authorities quickly.
I will lead a review into our intelligence capabilities to ensure that we are always one step ahead of criminals in our county. I want to implement a zero-tolerance approach to those who want to corrupt our young people and groom them for gangs.
I headed up a Child Protection team in my 30 years of service and worked in partnership with various charities and youth groups to protect our young people from the devastating influence of organised crime. Early intervention is key.
If we implemented a public health style approach to tackling the issue, we would be more successful in reaching out to young people before it is too late.
I will make it my responsibility to build relationships with Bedfordshire schools, community groups and religious groups to ensure that our young people are protected from falling into the hands of dangerous criminals.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, I will be clear that Bedfordshire Police have my full support in locking up the criminal networks that foster violent crime, county lines, gun, knife, gang and drug-related crime and in bringing those offenders to justice.
What can you say to Bedford residents who have seen a rise in anti-social behaviour, petty crime and thefts in their area and feel they are being ignored by the police?
I have spoken to dozens of families, small business owners and police officers who tell me that anti-social behaviour and petty crime is holding Bedfordshire back.
Every time someone commits petty vandalism or theft, it leaves hardworking people to pick up the bill. I know the frustration people feel when they think that they are being ignored. These are not ‘petty’ crimes – they are a slight against our communities and we must take them seriously.
If you don’t tackle these so-called ‘low level’ crimes, you can allow criminal activity to escalate into something much more dangerous.
When residents tell us that they need to see more police officers around town, we must listen.
I know that visible community policing is what tackles crime. I relied upon community policing during my 30-year career to help me catch criminals. We need to relaunch our community policing network so that it is up to date with the crime that residents are experiencing now.
In practical terms, I will launch a ‘Shop Watch’ policy that works with local business owners to communicate with the police more effectively- and protect our high streets as they look to recover after the pandemic. Coupled with a ‘Burglary Reduction Action Plan’- we can prevent, protect and prosecute those responsible.
As Bedfordshire begins to reopen after lockdown, we have an opportunity to seize the initiative on these issues.
The diversity in this year’s PCC candidate options is clearly indicative of efforts to better represent BAME communities across Bedfordshire. But how will you address internal issues within Bedfordshire Police where systemic racism may exist, whilst also creating better relationships between police officers and local BAME communities?
As someone who worked closely with the family of Stephen Lawrence, and having myself experienced the blunt edge of institutional racism, I know all too well the issues facing the BAME community and policing.
Bedfordshire Police have rightly received credit for their efforts to recruit more BAME Police Officers in recent years but it is not enough to simply have more representation amongst our officers if we’re not following it up with action.
Just 0.5% of complaints about racism to Bedfordshire Police are being upheld and BAME officers are underrepresented in the higher ranks of Bedfordshire Police.
In order to deal with violent crime, county lines and other criminal activity, Bedfordshire Police need to have the trust and confidence of local residents so that they will come forward to provide information, intelligence and evidence.
One way of engendering trust and confidence in our Police is to have a Bedfordshire Police that looks like the rich diversity of Bedfordshire. It’s not enough to have a cosmetic representation. It’s important to have this representation in progression through the ranks and in specialist departments. Better representation will lead to better policing.
I will establish Bedfordshire Police as an Anti-racist Police Service, to ensure that we are always conscious of our relationship with the wide range of diverse communities we have in Bedfordshire. I am optimistic about the change that we can make when we work together.
What three words sum up Bedford Borough to you?
Beautiful, Diverse, Optimistic.
Tomorrow we will publish our interview with Liberal Democrat candidate Jas Parmar.
How to vote in the PCC elections
The Police and Crime Commissioner elections take place on Thursday 6 May. You can find out where your polling station is by entering your postcode here.
The ballot paper will list the PCC candidates, with two columns for marking your first choice and second choice.
In the second column, you can mark a cross next to the candidate who is your second choice. You don’t have to mark a second choice.