Bedfordshire Police chief leaves with 'underfunding' message

image captionBedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said "policing must be properly funded"

The chief constable of Bedfordshire Police has said the issue of police funding "must be addressed", as he announced he is leaving the post.

Jon Boutcher has led the force since 2015 and said he was leaving it "with a heavy heart".

Mr Boutcher highlighted the issue of police funding and said the "consequences of previous budgetary decisions" were now being felt.

The Home Office said it increased fund for Bedfordshire by £8m this year.

The force had been given £4.6m special grant funding to fight organised crime and gang violence in November, a Home Office spokesman added.

But Mr Boutcher said Bedfordshire Police "provides the most profound example" of underfunding.

He said it faced "the most challenging and complex demands - normally only faced by metropolitan forces such as the Met, West Midlands and the like - yet the funding gap has not been addressed".

media captionKnife haul found in Luton parkland sweep

Gun crime in Bedfordshire was at its highest for a decade in 2017-18 while the county's police and crime commissioner said the area has seen an "unprecedented" rise in gang crime.

"I recognise recent efforts by the current Home Secretary and Policing Minister to reverse a long-standing lack of police investment, however I would remind everyone that it is the first responsibility of government to protect its citizens - policing must be properly funded," he said.

'Fantastic force'

Mr Boutcher has 35 years' police service, mostly in London, and as well as leading Bedfordshire Police, he also heads units specialising in counter-terrorism and special operations across the eastern region.

He said his "proudest achievement" is that Bedfordshire is "one of the top-performing forces when it comes to recruiting from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds".

"The force is fantastic and it has been a privilege to be chief constable during this period which has seen us improve across the board," he said.

The chief constable will serve his last day on 5 July, but he will continue to lead an investigation into a number of alleged murders, kidnaps and tortures in Northern Ireland, as part of Operation Kenova.

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