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.
Jas Parmar (Liberal Democrat)
Jas Parmar is 63-years-old and has lived in the mid-Bedfordshire village of Clifton for over 33 years.
He served as a police officer in the Metropolitan Police and as well as neighbourhood policing, he also served in the Crime Squad and Royalty Protection.
For over four years, Mr Parmar has been a member of the Independent Advisory Group to Bedfordshire Police acting on behalf of the county’s communities. He has sat on interview panels for new recruits and raised issues on behalf of local residents and our communities.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Bedfordshire Police in 2021?
Funding and, linked to this, a huge increase in the local Police precept, with local residents being forced to bail out the Government, and rural areas being under-resourced.
Restoring community policing and building trust with residents, ensuring that we are listening to their needs and putting victims at the heart of our approach.
Retaining our Police Officers and ensuring we keep experienced uniform officers, detectives and support staff.
Bedfordshire is historically underfunded and every year, it has fallen upon the ratepayers of Bedfordshire and Luton to plug the gap.
Every Chief Constable and many Members of Parliament have complained to successive Home Secretaries, however, it appears to have fallen on deaf ears.
Years of cuts in Police numbers and support staff has meant new intake of officers will take many years to gain the experience required to run an efficient Police service.
I have launched a petition to lobby the Home Secretary to fund Bedfordshire Police fairly which I urge everyone to sign.
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?
Bedfordshire Police are underfunded – treated like a rural force despite major urban centres, and we have seen the result of this in astronomical police precept charges locally.
I have already launched a petition for everyone to sign for fair funding. If elected, I will use my proven experience to work with Members of Parliament, Council leaders, Borough and Parish Councillors from every party and ask members of the public to join me in petitioning the Home Secretary. I will send a letter every single week to demand fair funding for our local Police.
In the past six years, our annual police precept has continued to go up astronomically.
It cannot be right that you – the residents of Bedfordshire – are expected to bail out the Government every year just because they have a Policing Funding Formula that is outdated and not fit for Bedfordshire today.
Violent 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?
Youth crime, gang-related crime and violence and county line drugs are serious issues that are blighting the lives of our youth and ruining their prospects for the future whatever it is they want to do.
But the police cannot solve every problem by themselves. How long can they try to prop up failing other public services around issues like Mental Health, people missing from children’s homes and care homes and even supplementing Ambulance Service?
I believe a multiagency approach and early intervention working with our local schools is one way of reducing the prospect of young adults falling into a life of crime.
Often, by the time the Police are involved, young people have already been failed.
Improving links with mental health services is a real opportunity. I was a non-executive director of East London Foundation Trust, a Mental Health provider in Bedfordshire and Luton.
I have seen the benefit of working together to reduce harm and approach the person from a patient point of view rather than crime.
If elected, I will ensure that there are triage nurses around the clock with Police Officers and in the call centre.
I will work with Violence Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) to use their expertise to keep young adults and children away from a life of crime.
The central and local governments also have to play their part in housing, employment and health inequalities.
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?
As a young police officer, I was taught the value of crime prevention. For every pound you spend on prevention, it saves more than twice as much in taking the person to court, sentencing them and you cannot even quantify the distress caused to the victim who will be at the heart of any police plan if I am elected as a PCC.
As part of my priorities, I will fund and support neighbourhood community policing by having mobile Police Stations that will visit rural and urban areas that are currently deprived of neighbourhood policing.
Visible, community policing not only prevents crime, but it also reassures the public that the Police is on their side.
As a retailer and Postmaster running businesses in Bedford and Kempston, I can understand the frustration felt by the public and businesses alike.
If elected, I will be open, transparent and accessible. I will engage with all the communities to listen to their concerns which is something I have done for the past 25 years in Bedford and Kempston.
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?
I do not believe that my ethnicity has any relevance to the quality and experience that I can bring to the role of a PCC.
Having served in the Metropolitan Police which was called institutionally racist, I can understand the issues. While some positive progress may have been made, that does not mean that racism does not exist and it cannot be used as an excuse to not do better and not to challenge racism – and indeed discrimination against any group – wherever we find it.
Community leaders and Police have to take positive steps to avoid the repetition of 70s and 80s.
They also need to ensure that the Police service reflects the public they serve. Although Bedfordshire Police has come a long way to issues of BAME officers, retention and promotion remain an issue.
We must develop stronger and more positive relationships between the Police and all communities by building trust and communication – that is all part of proper, visible community policing.
Over the last 10 years, I have chaired a 150 strong Business forum from all the communities in Bedfordshire, I have served as a Bedford Borough Councillor and have a track record of engagement and building relationships with all the communities.
6. What three words sum up Bedford Borough to you?
Welcoming, inclusive, thriving
While we have aimed to publish a response from each of the five candidates, we have not received a reply from the English Democrat candidate, Antonio Daniel Vitiello.
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.