Team Bedfordshire

“Wow, wow, wow! How can they keep this up for three hours?” My tweeted thoughts on the first twenty minutes of the Opening Ceremony. Eight hours later, I was on a crowded train heading to London, along with many others wanting to watch the Men’s Road Cycling. One of my tweets: “Gr8 feel to central London. Visible pageantry+tradition, much less traffic, nobody rushing, 2012help at (nearly) every turn + good weather!” And then, a little later in the week: “Far from encouraging me to be more active, these Olympics are turning me into a couch potato. No run this weekend (first in *ages*). #aagh!”

After a slightly slow start, Team GB has managed to re-ignite the excitement of the Opening Ceremony. And our Bedfordshire athletes have contributed more than their fair share to the amazing and growing tally of gold medals. Well done indeed to Etienne Stott in the Men’s Double Canoe Slalom, and to Victoria Pendleton in the Women’s Kierin. Plus I think we can count Milton Keynes’ Greg Rutherford as an honorary Bedfordian, as he is sponsored by Bedford Rotary Club!

These outstanding athletes freely acknowledge that their success isn’t solely because of their undoubted talent. They put in a very great deal of work over many years, working towards that central place in the victory ceremony. They draw strength from the energy of the home crowd. And they freely acknowledge the importance of the support they get from many others. “I couldn’t have done it without my coach, my partner, my backers, my family, my team members” so often the rightful victory refrain from so many.

Believe it or not, there are parallels with policing – a subject I know well. Living in Bedfordshire, I’ve spent most of my professional career as an independent policing advisor, working with police forces and governments across the British Isles, Europe and the Middle East. As a Bedfordshire resident, I’m always hoping to see Bedfordshire Police moving closer to the top of the “Community Safety” medals table.

Bedfordshire Police have improved greatly over the last couple of years. Under the leadership of a new Chief Constable, we’ve seen the force cut crime by 6% and domestic burglary by 20% – real success. But – as every single Bedfordshire victim of crime will testify – there remains much more to be done. What can we learn from the growing success that Team GB has enjoyed over the past three Olympics?

Firstly, our “policing athletes” will benefit from our encouraging and supporting their efforts to improve. Our “policing athletes” are the police officers and staff we see (and occasionally meet) in our day-to-day travel around our county, whose full time job is “fighting crime, protecting the public”. Few are household names, yet every single one is there striving to do a better job. Like Etienne Stott and Victoria Pendleton, they sometimes need to work as individuals and sometimes as a team. Like our Team GB athletes, they may not succeed in everything they do – but they are always looking to deliver. Motivating them to succeed is a vital part of their achieving that success.

Secondly, Bedfordshire could be made even safer by even greater cohesion between police and other agencies with a role in community safety. The Olympic parallel is the way in which, over the past twelve years, Team GB (across all sports) has focused more intently on success. This is where this November’s election of our Police and Crime Commissioner will help. He or she will be answerable to us, the residents of Bedfordshire, for crime and community safety. He or she will need to work with police, local government, health, education and very many others to deliver improvements here.

Finally, as Bedfordshire residents, we shouldn’t just leave policing to the police – it’s simply too important. The Olympics isn’t simply left to the athletes – there are very many individuals, organisations and companies contributing according to their strengths. For example, in London 2012, the volunteer Games Makers have been essential to Olympic success, as has the excellent television coverage provided by the BBC. For my part, I fundraise for Bedfordshire Crimestoppers (and raised over £1,000 in the London Marathon earlier this year). I’ve also decided to apply as a Special Constable. Bedfordshire Police are currently recruiting Specials – and it’s not just youngsters they’re interested in. Just as well – I’m over 50 (and I’m still hoping they’ll accept me).

So, Team Bedfordshire has played its part in the Olympic success of Team GB. Team Bedfordshire can also play a significant part in improving community safety and security here across our county. Are you ready to play your part?

UPDATE: As published in Bedford Midweek on 9th August 2012:

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