Community panel scrutinises Bedfordshire Police’s use of force

A new panel of community members has been established to scrutinise the use of force by Bedfordshire Police officers. The panel is believed to be the first of its kind in the country and offers unprecedented external oversight of the force’s actions in this area.

At the panel’s first meeting, on 25 June, members got to review body worn and CCTV video of three incidents where Bedfordshire Police officers had used force on members of the public. As well as detaining people using handcuffs, the footage also included officers using PAVA spray. One of the incidents shown took place in a custody cell.

The panel was held over a secure video conferencing facility, making use of digital technology to allow the scrutiny to take place while maintaining social distancing.

Community members are able to check police data to ensure force is being used by police in a manner which is fair and not disproportionate.

The panel Chair and Vice Chair independently choose videos of the police using force to appraise themselves on how force is being used on members of the public. Panel members then review the actions and behaviour of all parties involved before grading the use of force by the Bedfordshire Police officers as either green, amber or red.

The community scrutiny panel is a sub group of a similar scheme involving stop and search, where the panel review footage of stop searches carried out by police as well as how often these powers are used on different ethnic groups.

The scheme has been highlighted nationally as an example of best practice.

Montell Neufville, the panel’s independent chairman, said, “There are times when we know force should be used and there are times when force should not be used. By looking at how individual officers use force, the aim is to feedback any patterns that arise, any learning that needs to be shared with officers, any worrying trends or any behaviours which the scrutiny panel may think is unacceptable.

“Scrutiny is a two way process. This was a first panel meeting but a lot of work has been done behind the scenes to move to a situation where we can carry out scrutiny. It’s a credit to Bedfordshire Police that they are open and transparent.”

Chief Inspector Hob Hoque, Bedfordshire Police’s lead for use of force, said, “Being open and transparent about how we use these powers is absolutely vital to ensure we continue to have the public’s confidence and police by consent.

“The Black Lives Matter movement has shone a light on all of us as police officers. We all have powers bestowed upon us and it is essential that we use these powers legitimately to protect our communities. That’s why it is so important we invite scrutiny and reflection from people outside the police, to ensure we have that legitimacy and trust from the public.

“All feedback recorded by the panel will be given to the officers involved, as well as reflected on by myself and other senior officers to amend and improve our policies in this area.

“I would like to thank every member of the panel for their time and insight, and look forward to working with them more in the future.”