Diverse panel described as national example of great police scrutiny and oversight

A panel overseeing police use of force has been described as being the UK’s best example of how residents and community members can help to ensure transparency and accountability in police oversight
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The community scrutiny panel which covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire’s specialist police division known as Joint Protective Services (JPS) who are the areas armed policing unit, road policing unit and dog unit is chaired by Montell Neufville. Montell who is the former chair of the Bedfordshire police scrutiny panel, a police ethics advisor and managing director of Att10tive set up the panel three years ago to hold the police to account, ensuring fairness and impartiality when viewing the police’s interactions with the public.

The panel, which has around forty participants, and takes its members from all three counties is known for being diverse and representative of the population it serves. The purpose of the panel is to provide advice to the constabulary at the same time build trust and confidence on how the police use their powers to protect the public. The JPS community scrutiny panel reviews police data and also body worn videos of police incidents.

Montell said “We have pulled together people from all three counties, some with experience of scrutiny and most with no scrutiny experience. The panel has a wide age range with the youngest member being 16 and the oldest being in their sixties. People have all sorts of work roles including parents, teachers, youth workers, a plumber, a lawyer, students, health workers and a businessman. Having such a wide diverse panel is best practice and the opinions of the panel members are brought together by using a traffic light tool green for good, amber for training or advisory and red not so good. Most of the interactions are green. Some are amber which is feedback required. This is because the unit we oversee are very experienced officers. In addition most of their work is supporting other police colleagues, they are usually called as back up”.

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The panel meets four times a year virtually with the latest meeting being 15th February 2024. Panel member Dandy Doherty said “On today's panel we scrutinised data from the last quarter and several incidents of the use of force. The panel is an opportunity to influence how our communities are policed and give officers useful feedback. It's always great to see a diverse range of people coming together in this way.”

Another panel member Paulina Rzeszotarska said “'Being a member of the JPS Panel has been a very insightful experience. I feel that as a panel we contribute to the community by scrutinising police’s use of force. The panel consists of people from diverse backgrounds, and every opinion is valued and respected. I did not only learn about what standards the police should follow but also how difficult the positions police officers can be put in and how excellent policing should look. As a Forensic Psychology student I think I have benefited greatly from being a panel member, I have developed a deeper knowledge of policing and criminal justice. I would recommend this role to anyone, of any age as well as I would like everyone to know that there are individuals passionate about ensuring that any force used by police is used fairly and appropriately.''

The JPS police unit is overseen by Superintendent Sandwell. Said “policing continues to strive to enhance its legitimacy in the eyes of the public, this work delivers transparency, giving panel members unrestricted access to officers body worn video, statements and all police logs to enable them to provide a public perception of the force used. The feedback which is predominantly positive but always constructive is then passed back to officers for their learning. We are now heading towards our fourth year of this work which is benefiting both the community and policing”.

Montell Neufville added We work closely with the force leads and give them fair, balanced independent feedback which helps the force improve. It also shows panel members much of the good work going on all the time to keep residents safe. The force are very open to listening which is a really good thing.

If anyone is interested in getting involved they should email [email protected].