The prospect of elected Police Commissio...

First published 25th October 2012

The prospect of elected Police Commissioners is not one that fills me with enthusiasm.

I recall when this was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, I spoke against it in the House of Lords, as I feared with many others, that this would lead to the politicisation of operational policing.

What is becoming clearer is that this has not captured the imagination or support of the people of this country. The Electoral Reform Society predicts a turn-out of around 20% of the electorate, stating that the Government has failed to get information about this change to the people.

Independent candidates have fallen by the wayside in the run up to the election, which leaves us with people who have entered the fray on the back of a political ticket.

At one level, it all seems very plausible, more accountability and democracy etc., etc, but allowing someone other than the Chief Constable and his colleagues to set policing priorities I think is a dangerous thing.

Despite denials to the contrary, this means that operational policing will almost certainly be affected. The police service is having to make cuts. This means that the use of scarce resources becomes yet more critical. To have someone with very little experience of policing make decisions about such priorities, even if they are in line with 'what the people want' is a highly risky strategy. This will more likely lead to what the Government wants, given the inevitability that these Commissioners will be politicians.

Better left to highly skilled (and already accountable) and experienced police professionals. I hope I am wrong, but I doubt that this will bring improvement.

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