Having looked at the details of the voting system for the PCC elections I was amused to find that in the event of a tie, the Returning Officer will draw lots to decide the winner (Section 4.8 of Schedule 9 of the Act*). Drawing lots sounds much more civilised that “decided by the toss of a coin” or even “truncheons at dawn”!
Drawn lots or not, the elected Commissioner will take office on November 22 and will serve until the next election, scheduled for May 2016. After that elections will be held every four years. The Commissioner can only be elected for two consecutive terms.
I’m grateful to the candidates for engaging in the debate on this blog. To keep the ball rolling here are two more questions.
Question 3) British Cycling, the national governing body for cycling, is calling for urgent action to make the justice system fairer for cyclists and other road users who are hurt or seriously injured on the country’s roads. They believe the charges brought and sentences given do not reflect the seriousness of collisions when drivers are at fault and cyclists are injured or killed. This was debated in the House of Commons on 17 October and Justice Minister Helen Grant MP agreed to meet with British Cycling to discuss the issues. Question 3 is: although sentencing is not part of the PCC’s remit the importance the police attach to investigating criminal driving offences, and the line they take discussing appropriate charges with the CPS is. What are your views on the merits or otherwise of British Cycling’s concerns, and what would your guidance to the Chief Constable be?
Question 4) The Government says "PCCs will be required to swear an oath of impartiality when they are elected to office". However as far as I can discover the Act* creating PCCs does not mention ‘impartiality’ and the wording of the oath has not yet been decided. I suspect that the oath of impartiality is little more than a gesture to placate the “keep politics out of policing” faction. So Question 4 is: apart from obvious conflicts of interest in personal or financial matters which would be illegal anyway, can you give an example of a situation in which a PCC might justifiably be accused of failing to be impartial?
*The Act is The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
7 thoughts on “PCC Elections – two more questions”
I have every sympathy with the desire to make sure that enforcement of traffic law and stringency of sentencing for those who injure or kill cyclists due to dangerous driving is improved. I will of course act to implement any changes in the law and encourage the TVP to properly and uniformly enforce them.
The other side of this coin is of course the flagrant disregard that many cyclists have for the rules of the road and the assumption that they are not subject to such basic ideas as stopping at red lights or pedestrian crossings. I know that this is far worse in big cities, but alongside more robust policies to protect the safety of cyclists, I am also in favour of equally robust measures being put in place to make sure that cyclists uniformly adopt the position of responsible and law-abiding road users.
It comes down to the pretty basic idea of everyone being equal before the law and being afforded equal protections by the mechanisms of law enforcement.
In general terms, something that jumps out to me would be apologism and excuses given by a Liberal Democrat or Conservative PCC regarding coalition imposed cuts, and possible “fudging” of statistics and other mechanisms of measurement to make it look like everything is just fine once these cuts, or the next ones, really bite into police operational capability.
Another could be the policing of demonstrations if the groups in question align politically with a PCC’s personal beliefs – for example if the BFP/EDL candidate gets elected in Bedfordshire (God forbid) there will doubtless be significant questions that need to be asked about how he will protect public safety during an EDL march. The same could be said for an avowed anti-capitalist or rabidly pro-Union PCC regarding related demonstrations.
Of course, impartiality has to include the police, and several candidates (including in the Thames Valley) are communicating a certain level of antipathy towards police officers, if not outright hostility, and seem to be prepared to assume the worst and side against them at every opportunity. The police are constituents too, and negative or hostile attitudes towards them based on their profession and an individual’s personal pre-conceptions are clearly prejudicial and inappropriate positions for a PCC to hold.
In wider terms, I would also argue that impartiality will be impossible for a candidate who declares affiliation to an old, established party which has a long history of ideological positions and policies to try and defend. Even if an old party affiliation just indicates an individual’s general “value set”, it is still indicative of a level of doctrinal adherence that may be enforced informally by the central parties. This role is very public, very powerful and the Thames Valley PCC will have the Prime Minister and Home Secretary in their area and it is totally disingenuous to claim that such a position will be free from party-political interference from higher up the party hierarchy, which will have negative effects on a Liberal Democrat, Conservative or Labour PCC who will inevitably use the role to score points in Westminster.
I would of course add that UKIP, being a democratic libertarian “un-whipped” party would not suffer the same inhibitions, and indeed setting aside one’s personal preferences and priorities in favour of those of their constituents is expected of all elected members of the party.
Thanks for your response, Barry. I was interested to read your comment about some Thames Valley candidates showing antipathy or hostility towards police officers and siding against them at every opportunity. Of course you have seen and heard much more of them than I have, but so far that is something I hadn't noticed. Can I ask who you had in mind – or perhaps you are thinking of a particular occasion or document which others could refer to?
I would recommend watching the Aylesbury hustings from last night and you can make your own conclusions.
I have watched it. It's not me making the claim, and I try to stay neutral here as best I can. Perhaps if you give readers a pointer to where on the timeline to watch they can indeed draw conclusions.
The video is at http://bitly.com/S6Fh8B
John Howson, the Liberal Democrat Candidate replied by email:
You are correct that PCCs don't deal with sentencing, and I am opposed to the Tories 'pick a punishment' scheme announced at their recent conference.
Of course the police should investigate all road incidents and the CPS prosecute where an offence has taken place, but road safety is also about learning from our mistakes and preventing them happening again. The cycle box at traffic lights is a good example. But cyclists must always use lights at night, and it helps if they wear reflective clothing.
Pedestrians in parts of Oxford are concerned about cyclists using narrow pavements where roads are unsafe. The rule of always give way to someone or something more vulnerable applies to all road users including cyclists.
2 The Oath is similar to that sworn by police officers when handed their warrants; members of the judiciary on appointment; and other key public servants. That I cannot immediately think of an issue relating to partiality doesn't make it invalid. Indeed, the attestation Ceremony, like mayor-making should be a key feature of the induction into this very public role. I see it more as an Oath of Service than of just impartiality which is part but not all of the duties associated with being a PCC.
Safety for cyclists is an issue that I have already raised on my website. I also helped campaign successfully for a cycle path along a busy, dangerous road in my village. I support the review described, but would not want to prejudge the conclusions.
Impartiality could come if PCCs allow themselves to be drawn into the operational side of policing and interfere with particular investigations. If, for example, a PCC allowed him or herself to have anything to do with a case involving a friend or someone they had business connections with, the role would be seriously undermined.
Cyclists – As has already been mentioned this is not within the remit of the PCC. However, Roads Traffic POlice take this issue very seriously, and I can quite understand the concerns raised.
Impartiality – I find it difficult to envisage a situation where politics could intrude into a PCC decision, except over funding through the precept from Councils. This has always been political, and in Police Authorities only elected members could vote on this.
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