The Police Commissioner elections passed by yesterday and here in Dyfed Powys we now have a Tory Commissioner, does that mean he'll try and privatise Dyfed Powys Police? Probably not. With a turnout of 17.1% he hasn't much of a mandate either. Although he does have a salary of £64,000 for consolation. The great British electorate decided to live up to the long running press predictions of a very poor turnout, and after being told for so many months that 'there was very little interest' in the whole thing, decided to take very little interest. I'm not sure what came first, the apathy or the reported apathy.
Maybe people just think that experienced police officers would do a better job of controlling the budget and setting priorities than a politician. Politicians are as experienced in the art electioneering promises of 'putting more bobbies on the beat' or 'making your streets safer', as we are sick of hearing them. Will the new Tory Commissioner, along with the revamped Police Authority, the Police and Crime Panel, lobby his own government against cuts? Unlikely, not that the Labour candidate would have had any effect either.
Much has been said about the role of making the police accountable. For most people that only means one thing, an independent body which will investigate wrongful arrests, police corruption, being at the beck and call of council officials, etc; and for that purpose we have the IPCC, the effectiveness of which is arguable too of course. So the element of accountability will be based on the democratic election of Commissioner, who, along with his Panel made up of selected County Councillors and retired hill farmers (most will have both those qualifications), will cut crime and make our streets safer....
Accountability, I suspect, will revolve around the meeting of performance and efficiency targets, and suchlike, or not meeting them, then discussing it all in detail at a committee meeting...The committee (and I dare say a sub-committee will have been formed by then), will resolve to contact the Chief Constable to express their concerns....the Chief Constable will reply and say that it was they who set the budget and they who set the priorities....All of which will be discussed in great detail at the next committee meeting....and so on.
So maybe it's not apathy which caused the poor turn out, but the fact that the British public are only too aware of how these things work.
Anyway, for your information here's the result of the election in Dyfed Powys;
Christopher Salmon (Con) 32,887
Christine Gwyther (Lab) 31,773
Of the 17.1% who turned out to vote, 520 voted for both candidates, 309 didn't vote for either of them, and 2075 were 'void for uncertainty', or perhaps had made their feelings know directly into the ballot box.
(and for further reading concerning the hiring and firing of Chief Constables, specifically in Dyfed Powys Police, have a look at this interesting post from blogger Richard Taylor back in June; Central Government Influencing Local Appointment of Chief Constables.)