Bosses at Bedfordshire Police are thrilled after the force was rated "Good" overall in its inspection by the police watchdog.
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) published its inspection report today, which judged the force "Good" across the three areas of police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL).
It is the first time the force has achieved a "Good" rating following the introduction of PEEL assessments in 2014.
Inspector Matt Parr said: "I am very pleased with Bedfordshire Police’s performance in keeping people safe and reducing crime.
"In particular, I note the improvements the force has made since 2017 in its efficiency and effectiveness.
"Since our last inspection, the force has improved how it prevents and investigates crime. It has also developed better ways to make sure that it identifies and protects vulnerable people.
"The force has improved some of its crime recording processes but still has more work to do."
The overall rating of 'Good' represent a major milestone for Beds Police, which was the only force in the country to be rated "Inadequate" in 2016, followed by a "Requires Improvement" rating in 2017.
Following those inspections, Beds Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kathryn Holloway and former Chief Constable Jon Boutcher accused the inspectorate of unfairness, and Insp Zoe Billingham voluntarily stepped aside. Insp Matt Parr was appointed to monitor the force at the end of 2017.
Today, Mrs Holloway said: “I’m absolutely delighted, of course, that Bedfordshire Police has been recognised for the progress and continuous improvement that's been delivered.
"I never accepted that the ‘Inadequate’ grade, which focused on a lack of community policing in particular, was a fair assessment...
“One difference now is that Bedfordshire Police can supply proof to the watchdog of what those community teams have achieved in terms of problem-solving to address the type of lower level crime issues that affect people so much...
"As just one isolated example, anti-social behaviour in Houghton Regis has dropped by 49% in the last year and you don’t get that sort of progress in a force which is not stepping up to the plate."
The HMICFRS inspection praised multiple areas of Beds Police's work, including:
> Introducing victim engagement officers in the specialist Emerald team to help victims of domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault.
> Identifying and supporting vulnerable people.
> The professionalism, empathy and compassion of call handlers in the control room.
> The use of orders such as dispersal powers and community protection notices to tackle anti-social behaviour.
> Responding to people with mental health conditions particularly through the triage team - a partnership approach to helping those in crisis.
> Partnership working, particularly around information relating to high-risk victims, offenders and locations.
Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said: “This is fabulous news and is testament to all of the hard work of our officers and staff. The report describes Bedfordshire Police as ‘an ambitious force with a positive culture’ and I’m delighted that it particularly praised our work around identifying and helping vulnerable people – recognising our dedication to protecting people and keeping them safe.
“While we disagreed with previous gradings, we have worked tirelessly, with the support of HMICFRS, to address their areas of concern and ensure we were as efficient and effective as possible.
“My predecessor Jon Boutcher should take a huge amount of credit for leading the Force during this time – and I would also like to thank our communities and partners for their ongoing support.
“We continue to strive for excellence and will be going through the report to identify any areas which could be developed further to improve the service to our communities.”
The only area of the report that inspectors deemed to ‘Require Improvement’ was future planning.
Mrs Holloway added: “The fact that inspectors found the future planning aspect to be an area to be addressed is entirely understandable given the current police funding formula which leaves Bedfordshire Police still under-resourced to deal with the complex crime it faces on a daily basis.
"In fact, the report makes it abundantly clear that Bedfordshire Police requires an enhanced funding settlement, despite the 36 officers it will receive as part of the national uplift of 20,000 in 2020/21.
“The sheer fact that I've had to apply for Special Grant Funding two years running, simply to deal with Bedfordshire’s gang, gun and knife crime, shows the enormity of our financial challenges.
"Thankfully, I am expecting news of a second Special Grant any day now.