Beds Police was 'toxic and corrupt' - but is now a force staff are 'proud' to work for

“We got back some very uncomfortable truths from our organisation”

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 27th May 2022, 4:24 pm

Bedfordshire Police was a “toxic” and “corrupt” working environment according to staff only two years ago.

But now, staff are “proud” to be part of the force, its chief constable has said.

During his selection process three years ago, Bedfordshire Police’s chief constable Garry Forsyth said one of the four things he wanted to do was to continue to develop the force’s culture.

Beds Police chief Garry Forsyth

“I probably didn’t appreciate at that time the scale of the undertaking that I was taking on,” he told the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel (Wednesday, May 25).

There were a couple of incidents after his appointment that led to some “very difficult” and “very uncomfortable” conversations within the senior leadership team and with the rest of the organisation

One was when two young female Asian officers left the force in 2019 and then spoke to the BBC about their experiences.

“It was simply not a good story,” the chief said.

“It hadn’t been dealt with in the way that I, or you, would have wanted.

“In 2020, we embarked upon what I call our culture work where we had a conversation within the organisation.

“We spoke to over 400 officers and staff in different ways through focus groups, through one-to-one interviews, through questionnaires,” he said.

“We also spoke to over 20 of our partners as well to get their view of how they need that culture to be.

“We got back some very uncomfortable truths from our organisation.

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“Nepotistic, toxic, corrupt were some of the headline phrases that came out of that exercise, it was very, very uncomfortable,” he added.

The officers and staff were also asked to describe what their ideal culture for the force would be.

He said culture is now the focus of everything the force does.

As an example, the chief mentioned the senior leadership day which was held the Friday before its HMICFRS inspection.

“You might think on the Friday before the HMIC inspection on the Monday that we’d spend that time talking about the inspection,” he said.

“We spoke for about half an hour about that, and the rest of the time we spoke about the culture of the organisation, the journey, who we are, and what we were doing positively to influence that.

“For probably a good portion of my policing career I thought if I wanted to be a successful leader, I’d have to be good at strategy, good at policy, good at command, good at management and good at budgets.

“Actually, the most important thing is around the culture of the organisation, because if I can do all of those things and if the culture is wrong none of those matter.

“But if you can get the culture right then all those other things will follow.

“The culture of the organisation has been a massive contributing factor in our ability to get the very best out of all those people in a way where they feel valued,” he said.

The message from officers and staff now, he added, is that they are “proud” to be part of Bedfordshire Police.