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Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Faces Calls to Quit Over Police Uniform Stunt and Social Media Posts

Festus Akinbusoye is in hot water over potential ethics breaches as complaints mount

FEstus Akinbusoye interviewed on Sky News. Photo: Screengrab

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A prominent Police and Crime Commissioner faces a raft of complaints following a string of controversial social media posts and a potential breach of his own office’s rules against politicising the force. 

A letter to CEO Chief Constable Andy Marsh of the College of Policing, by Andrew Martin of the local Luton Neighbourhood Watch and seen by Byline Times, details serious concerns regarding the conduct of PCC Festus Akinbusoye.  

Last week it emerged that Mr Akinbusoye had been found by the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel (PCP), which monitors his conduct, to have failed to uphold the Nolan Principles, which are core ethical standards for public officials.

Mr Martin also implies he breached the Police Code of Ethics, over social media posts that included referring to a Bible verse (Psalm 59), apparently castigating those questioning his behaviour as “enemies”, and implying that Luton Neighbourhood Watch had misused public funds.

EXCLUSIVE

Conservative Party Crime Commissioner Faces Probe After Appearing in Police Uniform in Party Election Leaflets

Festus Akinbusoye appears to breach his own office’s rules on using police imagery for party-political ends

The letter to the College of Policing comes after the Conservative PCC recently halted funding to Luton Neighbourhood Watch (LNW), which Martin alleges was politically motivated as the group had been critical of him. Mr Akinbusoye denies the claims. 

It also comes amid separate complaints over a likely breach of his own Bedfordshire police commissioner’s office protocols, after his team published leaflets showing him in police uniform.

The outspoken crime commissioner is also a director of the College of Policing. Mr Martin argues this role is now untenable, despite the Conservative PCC being up for re-election this week. 

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The letter strongly urges Mr Akinbusoye to resign or to be removed from his directorship at the College of Policing, arguing: “The PCP Complaint Sub-Committee especially mentioned the failure of Mr Akinbusoye to uphold the principles of Leadership and Openness, it follows that Mr Akinbusoye is not qualified to offer views on improving leadership, improving standards in British Policing, developing leadership and driving consistency across UK police forces.”


PCC in Police Outfit

Byline Times recently revealed the Conservative Crime Commissioner had appeared in leaflets wearing a police uniform, apparently against his own OPCC protocol. It’s understood that the image was taken during a stint as a special constable before becoming PCC. However, police imagery is not meant to be used in election material due to the risk of making it look like a political endorsement. 

The Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner has now responded to one of the complaints against this, saying that Mr Akinbusoye’s agent had accepted that the candidate should not have appeared in a police uniform in leaflets. 

The OPCC representative said they had received several complaints about the campaign material, noting: “The OPCC discussed this matter with the candidate’s agent…who accepts that the local protocol sets out that images of Bedfordshire Police officers should not be used in election material. The image is of the Conservative candidate, Festus Akinbusoye, who served as a Special Constable in Bedfordshire Police from 14 August 2020 to 15 October 2020. 

“[The agent] accepts that the lack of caption explaining that the image is of Mr Akinbusoye when he was briefly a Special Constable was an oversight and could have been included on the election material.”

The agent reportedly pledged that the image subject to the complaints “would not be used in any new material that the campaign team did not already have printed”. 

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Warning Shot

The OPCC has also sent a message to candidates following the complaints, which reads as a sanction: “The purpose of issuing a protocol to cover the election campaign period is to ensure, as far as possible, a fair and level playing field for all candidates and for there to be no opportunity for any criticism of any candidate… 

“Of particular note is the APCC guidance that states: ‘Police and Crime Commissioners will wish to be particularly careful around publicity photos which might risk involving the force in campaign and political material, whether seeking re-election themselves or supporting other PCC candidates.”

The commissioner’s office notes that “no objections were raised by any campaign team about the protocol” when they attended a briefing on the guidance. 

“The OPCC and the [election returning officer] have received complaints about the use of police imagery in some of the election material for one of the candidates…The OPCC is considering whether the use of police imagery is in line with the local protocol and awaits a response from the NPCC in relation to its guidance.” No electoral law has been broken, but the guidance protocol appears to have breached. 


Decision Will Come After Election

Professor Colin Talbott, professor of Governance at the University of Manchester and a Bedford resident, was one of those who complained to the OPCC. He told Byline Times: “They’ve kicked it into the long grass. The OPCC has passed it up to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and asked them to adjudicate on whether or not this is incorrect use of police immediately, and they’ve had no response.

“It is absolutely clear that it’s a breach of the protocol. There’s no question about it. He doesn’t say: ‘well, here’s an exemption if you happen to have been a police officer… He’s put out another leaflet with this police imagery, and he’s defended it on social media. He said there’s nothing wrong with it.”

PCCs usually have some discretionary budget to fund non-police projects like Victim Support, Neighbourhood Watch schemes and so on. “He got into a dispute with his Luton Neighbourhood Watch, which is the largest one in the county, and he suspended their funding,” Prof Talbott claimed.

Update 1st May 2024: A spokesperson for the Bedfordshire OPCC strongly refuted the claims, saying: “The complaint around the use of the imagery has been resolved…The use was found to have been in breach and advice given, this hasn’t been passed to NPCC to make a decision.

“Further, no funds have been suspended or withdrawn from Luton NHW. Following the overhaul of the way in which the OPCC provides funds to organisations in 2022, funding has continued to be allocated to the County’s Watch Schemes, which includes the three neighbourhood watch organisations that operate in the county, and also activity such as dog watch, horse watch and community speed watch.

“It is not true that any neighbourhood watch scheme has had their funding withdrawn. What is true, is that the process that we require the neighbourhood watch schemes to use to access the funding allocated to them has changed.”

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“I Totally Reject and Refute the Findings”

Festus Akinbusoye released a statement on social media last week, responding to the leaked findings of the police scrutiny sub-panel and suggesting it was politically motivated: “The complaints process is not yet completed, and it is quite shocking that the very well-known serial complainant has released the findings of the panel sub-committee before I have had the opportunity to respond to them, so I am limited as to what I can say for legal reasons. 

“I can however say, I totally reject and refute the findings of the Panel and will be responding fully as part of the formal process in due course. It will be very concerning to any objective observer looking at this process, that an independent Police and Crime Panel decided to hold a sub-committee complaint hearing a day before the election regulated/restricted period commenced, despite receiving the complaint from the serial complainant nearly six weeks before the date, and then further enabled the outcome to be released by the serial complainant.

“The timing of the Panel’s intervention is therefore deeply regrettable and raises several questions, among which there’s absolutely no right of appeal against its decision by me. The Panel has thus taken on a position which even our Courts do not take.” 

He added: “I remain fully focused on my positive campaign to be re-elected as Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner on Thursday 2nd May while continuing to fulfil all my duties on behalf of residents.”

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire’s Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) also noted that the findings of the sub-panel against Mr Akinbusoye were meant to remain confidential ahead of the process being finalised and a decision being taken on whether to publish it. 

The OPCC spokesperson added: “The complaint process has not yet concluded so it would be inappropriate to make any comment until it has been finalised.”


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