The idea that policing is a function of the state which should operate with the consent of its citizens is generally held to go back to Robert Peel, founder of the modern police force in the mid nineteenth century. But how is that consent expressed today? Police Authorities are unelected and virtually unaccountable to the electorate: the Thames Valley Police Authority consists of 10 members chosen from elected councillors, 8 independent members “chosen from ordinary members of the public who responded to a public advertisement” and 2 lay magistrates. It seems highly unlikely that any Councillor has ever lost his or her seat in an election because of their actions on the Police Authority. The Home Secretary has a role too but again democratic accountability is at best remote and indirect. If as a citizen you are unhappy about some aspect of your local police force how do you make your views known and how can you invoke the voter’s ultimate sanction and get rid of someone who is underperforming?
Another assertion we are hearing as the elections get closer is “keep politics out of policing”. But how can that be? Policing is political. It is an arm of the state seeking to control (for good reasons or bad) the behaviour of its citizens. How the police handle protest demonstrations, for example, or which organisations they class as a threat to law-and-order and so justify infiltration and surveillance, or whether or not they choose to investigate allegations of phone-hacking, are highly political policies. Agreed, these questions are a long way from how often my local PCSOs run an operation to fine people for cycling on the pavement in Headington, but allocation of resources at a local level is not politically neutral either.
So I don’t have a problem with political parties sponsoring and supporting PCC candidates. This is not to say that Independent candidates have nothing to offer: they may well do, and will have an uphill struggle getting their messages across against the organisation and resources of the political parties. But although some may question whether PCCs will really have much influence over their local police forces, I see the introduction of an elected and accountable person as a step in the right direction.
And that is why I’ll be voting on 15 November.
2 thoughts on “Why I shall vote in the PCC Elections”
Independent candidate @PatienceAwe tweeted:
Party politics & policing will create avenue for partiality, unfairness, social imbalances and compromise the integrity of the police.
Though independent you are still running for elected office, where you would be making political decisions and (presumably) trying for reelection.
As a Labour candidate, people know my values and where I stand. It is easier for an independent to be all things to all people. That said, no one who knows me would say I am a party appartchik or a "yes" man. If elected, unlike MPs who are answerable to party whips, I would be my own man (just as Ken and Bors have been in London). I would not be taking orders from party HQ! I have also been fortunate in the Labour party in drawing on a huge amount of expertise within our membership ( former Thames Valley Chief Constable, Prison Governor, probation officers, members of Commumity Safety Partnerships etc) in putting together our policies. For more detail see http://www.timstarkey.com.
I would urge people to vote because this is a big job with a lot at stake: police numbers, which crimes and areas are given priority, whether police services such as patrolling the streets are privatised, the future of support services for victims of domestic violence…
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