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

The force’s stop and search scrutiny panel reviewed four examples of body worn video where police used force in their duties, such as placing people in handcuffs or restraining them.

The panel, which consists of a representative trained pool of people from across the county, checks to ensure that the use of the powers is necessary, proportionate, reasonable and used only to protect a person or property, or in some cases for safeguarding.

As well as these, the community members also reviews statistics around use of force, such as how many times it is used against people from different ethnic backgrounds.

The meeting, held on 22 April 2021, also heard from a specialist firearms officer around how they use force and how this is recorded.

Superintendent Nick Skipworth, Bedfordshire Police’s 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 It 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. Bedfordshire Police saidn that this panel 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.”

Visit the Bedfordshire Police website for more information on the independent scrutiny panels used by the force and how to get involved.