Last week I did not vote for a Police and Crime Commissioner. I shared this characteristic with over 85% of the people eligible to vote in my area. It seems that the Electoral Commission is to launch an enquiry into the poor turnout and the number of spoilt papers. I thought I would save them time, effort and more of your and my money by producing this blog.
I actually have quite a few objections to the PCC idea and process, but my major objection to the election was that the process was hi-jacked by the political parties. To me, it is fundamental that policing and politics are as unconnected as it is possible to make them. I think the election results show, if anything, that most of the population share that view. I cannot otherwise explain why nearly a third of the new commissioners are independent; such a large percentage of independents never get elected in elections in the UK for other positions.
I think police forces have a difficult job and I do not think it will help them if the political flavour in a given area, based on the political persuasion of the PCC happens to run counter, or not, to that of the issue the police are trying to control. For example, imagine the miners’ strike in the Thatcher era and the Police task in an area that had either a Conservative or a Labour PCC. How would that appear to the press and to the local population? Would the PCC have influence on police attitudes and behaviour? And even if it did not, how would it appear?
I also object because the election process cost you and me, according to reports, around £100 million. I could not recognise any problems with the old system that I felt was worth this amount of money being spent on it. Surely, better to put this money into the police service itself. It has been reported that the ongoing costs of the PCCs will be no more than the previous system. Please forgive me if I am dubious about that.
One thing that did not cause me “not to vote” was a lack of information. I think this is a poor excuse being talked up by supporters of the PCC idea who are trying to avoid the reality that people did not vote, or spoilt their ballot papers, because they basically did not see the need for PCCs in the first place and did not feel it right that the election process became party political.
At a much more trivial level, why have these new posts been given the name they have? I can understand that in a sense they will be commissioning the police by appointing the Chief Constable, or removing him/her from post, but I do not think they will be commissioning CRIME!