Chris White writes: Police Commissioners – the descent into low farce

News today that the Tories may not even field candidates for their cherished police commissioner posts, but instead are ‘considering instead whether to put … support behind other contenders, such as prominent and distinguished local individuals’ shows that this awesomely bad policy is starting to founder.

Meanwhile Labour are having similar doubts and, as discussed elsewhere on Lib Dem Voice, our own Party is hardly racing towards a sensible selection process.

The problem, of course, is not just that the legislation is not finalised but that the elections will be hideously expensive, covering in some cases several county areas: this is a lot of leaflets for questionable benefit – whether political or policing.

In addition the deposit for candidates is likely to be £5,000 – a further substantial challenge to campaign cash flow.

By contrast, apparently, the BNP will be fielding candidates.

Need I say more?

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Well, I don’t think avoiding nakedly political oversight of policing is a bad thing…

  • Chris White 28th Jul '11 - 3:35pm

    The point is that political parties are essential to our democracy in two ways: first they provide clear labels and a notion that those elected under a particular banner will deliver certain sorts of policies and not others. A system which comprises only independents would essentially be one where the public had to abdicate its opinions to an individual’s whim.

    More importantly there is a crucial element of screening to ensure that the candidates are suitable both in policy terms and personally.

    Little of this is understood by the media or by those who think somehow political parties are invariably a problem.

    None of today’s news proves that police commissioners are a bad idea. It suggests rather that the sponsors of the idea and other political parties are doubtful about the concept.

    The badness of the idea has been discussed elsewhere, not least on this website. I won’t bore you but: overconcentration of power, the reduction of the influence of minorities, the size of the patch, the reduction in the role of elected councillors, the overexpectations of the public for change, the danger of actual interference, the failure to grasp the real problems of policing by concentrating on form….

  • I think I’d have to agree with jedibeeftrix and g.

    I don’t see why you are so fearful of this, politicians love to take power so a party saying it will back someone who is non aligned must be a bonus.

    I saw your original post on this subject (which you have linked to) and I had some issues with that as well tbh. Basically you seem to be saying that 2 versions of committee have failed to provide accountability so lets try another version of something that has failed. A single point of contact with no committee to hide behind has surely got to be more accountable?

    I think this was highlighted by your statement in the previous post that “The problem with policing is not that no-one knows what a police authority does, it is that the police authority is 50% unaccountable “. If no one knows what the authority does, then they are 100% unaccountable.

    I would also make a point about your BNP comment, a far left group would probably be just as bad as a far right group as they are generally cut from the same cloth. Regardless of that, if they are legal then they have a democratic right to stand, plus these sort of parties tend to do well when mainstream politics fails the people – so don’t fail the people and the problem will probably go away.

  • Paul Griffiths 28th Jul '11 - 7:46pm

    “More importantly there is a crucial element of screening to ensure that the candidates are suitable both in policy terms and personally.”

    That’s true of PPCs. Not necessarily true of councillors. Which is why I’m not convinced about your position on approval of Lib Dem P&CC candidates.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Jul '11 - 7:46pm

    It will be interesting to see what kind of person puts up to do this job (if it is allowed to continue) from all parties. I have a feeling that besides those seeking ‘the main chance’ of filling their socks with public money (in places where their own Party largely rules the roost), there will be masses of narcissism involved by those who wish to be temporary big fish in medium-sized ponds. Then, of course, there will be the megalomaniacs, who may be independents or party apparatchiks.

  • Tony Dawson Posted 28th July 2011 at 7:46 pm

    You need to buy a new glass mate, that one is half empty you know 😉

    Perhaps someone who doesn’t feel at home in a political party but cares about policing will apply for the job?

  • Since Police Officers retire relatively young, there’s a good chance that most elected commissioners will be from exactly the same stock as Chief Constables the major difference being they’ll be chosen by the people.

  • Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera 31st Jul '11 - 5:58pm

    As a former police officer, and someone that is still involved in research, I feel that the British Police Service is in dire need of reform, and is not as accountable for its actions/inactions as I would hope, but the proposed system of an elected Police & Crime Commissioner is not guaranteed to be any better, but possibly worse. Having undertaken much research over the years, I cannot recall where there is an example of ‘good practice’ that supports this draconian move.

    Simply put, policing is too important to be left to just the police, but it is also too important to be left to an elected individual who may well have to pander to party politics in order to maintain their position. Many policing and crime reduction initiatives/programmes require a long-haul, inter-agency and multi-disciplined approach that may take many years, and require tough decisions that will not be politically popular. I would argue that for success all such work requires the service to be politically independent, and not subject to ‘Party’ political whims.

    Within the serve there are already debates about whether it is effective to have 43 differing services in England and Wales (each with its own Chief Constable and Police Authority, etc), whether the current recruitment, retention and progression system, either attracts and/or develops the ‘brightest and the best’.

    NB: Currently the qualifications required to become a police officer are minimal, in fact I am not being too glib, when I say that more is stated about whether one has a tattoo or not, and whether the tattoo is offensive, than what academic qualifications an person has to possess upon entry.

    Arguably the current model of policing in England and Wales specifically has change little since its inception in 1829, but as we know society and the world has, so I would argue that it is time for an independent and full review of the service, to assess its fitness for purpose in the 21st Century, and beyond. The subsequent findings would aid and enhance the decision making process for its future reform.

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