Saturday, 17 November 2012

Thoughts on the Police Commissioner election

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.)


Anonymous said...

Those who critisice the appointment of democratically chosen PCCs ignore what went before.

The make up of the old Police Authority comprised placemen from local councils (some in receipt of special responsibility allowances), a few magistrates and some lay members. Nobody was actually voted for.

At least now we will have one person who has been democratically elected and who we can hold to account.I hope he obtains proper independent advice from sources other than the Chief Constable and actually tries to shake things up in an organisation which at times seems to think it is beyond the control of mere mortals - like the people who pay for it.

The first thing on the agenda is the appointment of a new Chief Constable. The current acting Chief was appointed after the retirement of the last CC (Unless of course between then and now she has been appointed without a process).

Mr Salmon needs to know that he is getting the best not just the one who was lucky enough to be in post when the last guy retired!!

Owen said...

Personally, I think the principle of elected police commissioners is sound. It's just the execution of this has been a complete and utter mess.

The role of PCCs themselves appears to be that of a glorified clerk or accountant. I don't know what it was like in Dyfed-Powys, but in South Wales, there seemed to be nothing more than a fag packet between the 4 candidates in terms of policy : "More bobbies on the beat," "oppose cuts" (which they can do sod all about), "will be a strong voice for the community."

I'm willing to bet when the Crime Strategies are published, they'll be pretty much identical wherever you are.

The fact they have to balance a relationship with the operational police commander and the electorate means they'll likely shy away from making big calls, or be pressured into making an unnecessary one.

We also have to remember that the old Police Authorities will effectively still exist via the "Police and Crime Panels".

towy71 said...

The elections were a dogs breakfast and did not engage any public support, the cost of the new system will be greater than the old police authority and will result in no change in the budget other than meaning less policemen on the beat.
the Police and Crime panel will still be the same "usual suspects" e.g. unelected and unaccountable nonentities