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Kent Police commissioner Ann Barnes hands over keys to 'Ann Force One' to Kent Search and Rescue

Police commissioner Ann Barnes has donated her controversial "Ann Force 1" van to the Kent Search and Rescue charity.

Mrs Barnes handed over the keys to the Volkswagen minibus, which she previously used for community engagement visits around the county.

The use of the bus came under fire following the much-criticised documentary Meet the Commissioner, aired on Channel 4 in May last year.

Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes

In the wake of the TV show, Mrs Barnes told the Kent and Medway Crime Panel she would be ditching the van, after concerns it was seen as a campaign vehicle.

During a meeting with Kent Search and Rescue (KSAR) - KentOnline's charity of the year - Mrs Barnes was made aware of the group’s urgent need for a new vehicle

She said: “Kent Search and Rescue’s need for transport is far greater than mine and I am pleased I can help them in this practical way.

"After all, their enthusiasm and professionalism save countless hours of police officer time.”

KSAR has refitted the van and equipped it with the latest satellite mapping software and digital communications technology.

Ann Barnes with her Ann Force 1 bus in Maidstone
Ann Barnes with her Ann Force 1 bus in Maidstone

It was used operationally for the first time last week as an incident support vehicle on a search in east Kent.

Paul Lewis, KSAR chairman, said: “This is an incredibly generous and thoughtful donation by Mrs Barnes.

“As an organisation run entirely by volunteers and funded solely by donations from the public, securing this vehicle has not only saved thousands of pounds but also now allows us to expand the service and capabilities we can offer the communities in Kent.

“This van will support our searches by allowing the planning and supplementary work involved in a missing person search to take place at the scene and away from the main search operations centre.”

Ann Barnes hands over the van keys to Kent Search and Rescue
Ann Barnes hands over the van keys to Kent Search and Rescue

Following the donation, Mrs Barnes was invited to a KSAR practice exercise at Buckmore Park karting circuit in Chatham to see the team in action.

She added: “I saw first-hand demonstrations of the vital work they do to support Kent Police in the search for vulnerable missing persons. They really are unsung heroes.”

Almost 10,000 people are reported missing each year in Kent – with more than 350 of these being classed as high risk – and KSAR works with Kent Police to assist in the search for the most vulnerable missing people in the county.

The voluntary organisation recently dedicated more than 1,000 hours searching for Pat Lamb, who went missing after a night out in Maidstone in December. His body was found a month later at Cuxton Marina.

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