Montell Neufville has chaired the panel – which provides independent scrutiny on the force’s use of stop and search powers and use of force – for five years.
At a presentation on Thursday (10 March) at Luton, alongside Tropical FM and Pastor Lloyd Denny, he was thanked for his commitment to the force which has led Bedfordshire Police to having among the lowest rates of disproportionality and the best rates for reasonable grounds in stop and search of all UK police forces.
Chief Constable Forsyth said: “Montell has overseen significant improvement in independent scrutiny during his time at the helm of our valued community panel.
“Without his expert input and the work of his volunteer colleagues, the issues surrounding stop and search and police use of force would be lesser known across both the force and wider public of Bedfordshire.
“He has helped to raise the profile of our work to improve effective and fair use of stop and search, taking our force to be recognised as best practice nationally.
“I would like to thank Montell for the countless hours he has contributed to working both with officers, staff and the community to build bridges and increase mutual understanding about these necessary, but often controversial, powers.
“His tireless work and clear passion for transparency and equality have been absolutely invaluable to us as a force and we look forward to continuing his good work with the panel into the future.”
A recent audit by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that 95 per cent of stop and searches carried out by Bedfordshire Police were based on reasonable grounds, the best in the country.
Mr Neufville has helped raise the profile and number of people involved in the panel, as well as building trust between policing and different communities in Bedfordshire.
He said: “One of the main focuses has been to help ensure officers are acting with fairness and equality, using their powers only for legitimate crime fighting purposes. This is really important for all community members and helps build trust and confidence in helping police officers protect citizens.
“I’ve always been passionate about fairness, fairness to everyone no matter who they are. I’m also very passionate about inclusion and using education as a tool to solve problems.
“What does having high rates of reasonable grounds mean and why is it important? It is a really important measure, as this balances the need for officers to investigate if a person may have an illegal item on their person, with the liberty and rights of individuals citizens. These powers are very easy to abuse if they are not managed with fairness, which many officers now do in Bedfordshire.
“In addition to helping focus on solutions, a lot of time and effort has gone into ensuring there were lots of people from all over Bedfordshire involved in scrutiny, from every background and with all kinds of lived experience, no matter what their views of policing are. I always took the view that the panel must be diverse in its thinking.
“I would like to thank Chief Constable Garry Forsyth and his Executive team, the rank and file officers, but most of all the community scrutiny panel members who have given up their time over all these years in many meetings, engaging in healthy debate often into late in the evenings.”