Sunday, November 11, 2012

Police and Crime Commisioners

The government, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that each UK county will now have their own elected police commissioner.

I think this is beyond stupid.  Admittedly, the only thing I know about police commissioners is all wrapped up in the character of Jim Gordon.  So off, I go to do some research.

Here is an article by the BBC on the folk standing for election in Norfolk.
It syas:
"PCCs, as they will be known, will be responsible for setting priorities for their police force, overseeing its budget and hiring the chief constable.
Those in the biggest force areas will get salaries of more than £100,000 and no prior police force experience is needed."

Emphasis mine.

How on earth can you set priorities for something and control a budget when you have no experience in the area?
Anyone running a regional cop shop should have experience of coppering.  It is ridiculous that candidates can have none.

The Tory candidate has more information on what the PCC job will do.  From it:
"Police Commissioner is a new job introduced by the Government to bring direct democratic accountability to England’s policing"
That will only work if the general public also knows about coppering.  if we really understand the process and can boot people out if they aren't doing right.  In reality, the general public (including myself) knows fuck all about coppering and will probably be impressed if the PCC makes a big noise about certain high profile crimes.

Coppering should not be subject to the democratic process, it doesn't work.  Coppering has other checks in it which on the whole work OK.  Certainly they won't be improved by a PCC.

Onto the candidate's election statements.

Jamie Athill, Conservative.  Oh fuck he's got 35 years military experience.  The army and the police force are entirely different things, and no one who is that embedded in the military should be let anywhere the police.  Just, no.  No way.

Stephen William Bett, Independent.  He's ex Tory. He pledges to keep party politics out of policing.  Which is a good start.  He says his priority crimes include:
drug dealing, sexual offences, domestic violence, hate crime and anti-social behaviour.
I'd quite like to know how he's going to deal with these.

On the plus side, he has actually had experience of coppering, as he's been on the Police Authority for 16 years, and spent the last 6 years as Chairman.  In all honesty, I have no idea how well he's done.  Norwich is one of the safest cities in the UK, with the lowest rate of crime.  Which is good, but I don't know how much of that is to do with effective policing, and how much to do with culture.

James Joyce, Liberal Democrat.  He's got an amazing bow tie.  But more importantly, he has been on the Police Authority for 7 years and has been Chairman of Norfolk Crimestoppers for the last 6 years.
So far it's looking like it will be either Joyce or Bett who will get my vote.

The website says:
His key priorities will include:

  • Cutting bureaucracy to help the police to spend more time out on the streets.
  • Targeting more resources on rape and domestic violence.
  • Developing community policing with new powers for communities to tackle anti-social behaviour.
  • Toughening up community sentencing.
  • Better support for the victims of crime and the expansion of restorative justice.
  • Closer cooperation between the police and other key local agencies, particularly health and social services.
He's specifically mentioned fighting rape and domestic violence.  I think he'll be more likely to get my vote.  Unfortunately he also talks about "driving out inefficiency".  I just feel that's an easy phrase anyone and everyone trots out and it doesn't really mean anything.

Steve Morphew, Labour.  Now, I used to work with his HR organisation so I feel like I do know him a bit.  He has no policing experience and spends a section of the election statement waffling on about peace of mind in regards to areas not linked to policing.  What has council tax got to do with the police force?

Then he says:
I am experienced in leading large public sector organisations, respecting the independence of professionals and holding senior officials to account. I have worked successfully in partnership with many organisations of differing political opinions and none. My overriding priority is, and must always be, your peace of mind.

Experience in large public sector organisations, respecting independence and everything else he talks about there is irrelevant to policing.  Particularly when he's up against candidates with actual POLICE EXPERIENCE.  I seem to recall that when he was leader of the City Council there was a housing scandal which forced him to resign.  I don't think I'll be voting for him

Lastly, Matthew James Smith, UKIP.  Oh christ.  He says he will (asterisks mine):
  • Will put the victim first and not the criminal*
  • Refuse to pander to political correctness or dangerous quota seeking systems**
  • Fight to get our Police force back on the front line and not stuck behind a desk filling in paperwork
  • To prioritise real Police over PCSO’s
  • To re-connect Police and local communities
*This doesn't happen. Ever.
**Political  correctness is about not insulting people through comments on their race/sexuality/gender/other inviolable things.  It should be considered good to not be rude.  I would be interested to know what quota seeking systems he is referring to and why they are dangerous.  I suspect they do not work as he thinks they work.

So there you have it.  Our candidates for chief copper.  I was considering not voting at all, because I think the whole thing is ridiculous.  And I think politicos should be kept well away from day to day policing.  But, I am rather keen on exercising my right to vote and now that I know 2 candidates have policing experience (of a sort) and one specifically mentions prioritising rape and domestic violence, I think I will vote for Mr Joyce.


Feminist Avatar said...

I disagree that experience working with large scale public sector organisations is irrelevant. That's exactly what the PCC will do, and I don't hold that it's absolutely necessary that the PCC should be ex-police (although some evidence of knowledge in this area would be useful), because I think that this can just promote the same types of thinking within an organisation- however this is why a group would be better than an individual, because you could combine people with indepth knowledge of the policing system with people from other walks of life giving complementary perspectives.

I'm relatively indifferent to the PCC as a role - I can see pros and cons - but I think this is a good example of where you should vote for someone you think will hold up the same values as you would in the policing system (so avoid UKIP!)

Saranga said...

Definitely avoid UKIP!

This post has thrown up some interesting reactions (well, 2) from you and an American friend. It's made me consider the role differently.
I am now surer than ever that I don't really understand what the PCC will do, so figure it's best to vote with the person who will, as you say, uphold the values you want in the system.

Lib Dem it is then.