Chief Constable Garry Forsyth reflects on his first 12 months in ‘the best job in the world’
Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said leading Bedfordshire Police was “the best job in the world” as he reflected on his first 12 months in charge of the force.
In a year that has been dominated by the global pandemic Covid-19, Mr Forsyth praised the “amazing” response of officers and staff and the collective approach of partners and communities to protect the people of Bedfordshire.
The force’s success at tackling organised crime was also a high point for the new chief constable.
“I’m blown away every day, without fail, at the stories I hear about the lengths we have gone to in order to keep people safe. The extraordinary things we have done for the public and each other,” said Mr Forsyth.
“It is hard to express the level of pride you feel when leading an organisation like that. It really is the best job in the world.
“It has been a year with many, and varied, challenges, but Covid has certainly taken top spot – we have had to flip on a sixpence and adapt at pace to keep the public safe and that has been enormously challenging.
“Responding professionally is something policing does every day – but the way we have adapted, innovated and excelled has been breathtaking and amazing to be part of.
“Covid has meant that many of the usual set-piece events where I’d have the chance to engage with our communities have been cancelled or postponed, and I’ve missed that personal interaction. But overall the partnership effort has been really important – there are so many examples of how we are working effectively with our communities to protect people.”
Last week saw the culmination of a more than a year’s partnership working to tackle concerns around drugs and anti-social behaviour in a number of tower blocks in Bedford.
In a first for the force, Bedfordshire Police secured a partial closure order on an entire block of flats in a joint operation with housing association bpha and Bedford Borough Council.
That followed a national operation which saw more than 90kg of Class A drugs, seven firearms and £88,000 in cash seized in the county as part of the UK’s largest ever operation to combat serious and organised crime.
Mr Forsyth also highlighted the force’s specialist guns and gangs unit’s continuing efforts to drive down serious youth violence with numerous proactive seizures and arrests, helping secure a nine per cent reduction in serious youth violence in the county in the 12 months to March, which equates to around 200 fewer victims.
Mr Forsyth said: “I’m really pleased about the work we have done to dismantle organised criminality to protect vulnerable people across Bedfordshire and beyond. That is a real focus for the force, and our partnerships, and there is a lot more to come.
“A key part of that is through how we police and engage with our communities. I’m really pleased that we are continuing to grow the force – bringing in extra officers to boost our front line, where the public wants to see them most.”
Mr Forsyth was appointed by Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner Kathryn Holloway following an ‘innovative’ selection process that included a presentation and Q&A, which was live-streamed on Facebook.
She said: “Chief Constable Forsyth has certainly had a baptism of fire in his first year leading Bedfordshire Police. As his outstanding performance during my selection process last year indicated, he has most definitely proved to have been the right person, in the right place at the right time.
“Garry has led the force through the tricky path of enforcement of new Covid regulations with aplomb. He is also the lead for all forces in terms of race and religion and he and I are determined to make Bedfordshire Police an exemplary employer of our BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities and a force which commands the trust and respect of all our communities.
“Last, but not least, Chief Constable Forsyth has presided over a quite exceptional spring and summer of achievement in relation to serious organised crime, not only in Bedfordshire itself but also in relation to the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, on behalf of all seven forces of the East of England, which our force leads. The only message from me on his first anniversary is to keep up this spectacularly good work and congratulations.”
As well as the success at tackling organised crime, it will be some unexpected consequences of policing the pandemic that leave a lasting memory, said Mr Forsyth.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have had a broad range of experiences across my 26-year career to date, but two of my lasting memories have come in the last few months,” he said.
“One was the pleasure of meeting Captain Tom Moore and thanking him on behalf of the emergency services – a really special occasion for me. And the second was recording bedtime stories, an initiative to reach out to young people on social media during lockdown. Both were things I never imagined I would be doing at the start of the year, but are examples of tremendous human spirit and innovation during what were undoubtedly dark times for so many.”