Party political policing

November 15, 2012

–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

I hope I am proved wrong, but I am afraid that the decision to introduce elected police commissioners will turn out in the long term to be the most damaging of all the stupid things this incompetent Government is doing. It is a fear that has been reinforced by the leaflet shoved through my door on the eve of the election. At the top, it has a bright red band reading “From…., your Labour Police and Crime Commissioner candidate” and a matching red ribbon at the bottom says “Vote Labour Thursday 15th November”.

To add insult to injury, the back page has a large headline: “I will keep politics out of policing” with a few lines about the wonderful things the clown in question will do, followed by a short piece under a headline that reads “Unfair Tory cuts mean…”.

For over a century, there has been agreement on the need to do everything possible to keep politics out of policing and, while there have been many cases when the police have proved incompetent, negligent, even corrupt, for the most part they have remained above politics. To insulate them totally is impossible, but the current arrangements can at least be said not to encourage politicisation.

That is not something which can be said after today’s election.

Police and Crime Commissioners (as they are called, presumably because they commission police and crime (?!)), look like a solution in search of a problem, so it’s no wonder their manifestos are vacuous even by the high standards set by politicians. They all propose to cut crime, to free police officers from the burden of paperwork so that they can get on with their proper job (why didn’t I think of that?) and, as our Labour candidate puts it, “ensure the criminal justice system puts the needs of victims first and punishes offenders”. The existing police authority ought to have a case for libel – there is a clear implication here that for years they have been doing their best to increase crime and red tape while supporting criminals and punishing victims.

It is not as if the new PCC’s will have any additional powers. In particular, they will have no additional funding, so they will be able to blame financial constraints for any adverse outcomes on their own patch, and you can be sure they will be more inclined to moan publicly about how short of money they are when their own party is in opposition.

So, apart from blogging, what can a poor lad do to express how he feels at this wanton act of vandalism being perpetrated on our most important public service? On the one hand, not voting at all goes completely against the grain. On the other hand, this may be the time to salute the wisdom in the words of the toilet-wall philosopher: “Don’t vote. It only encourages them.”

Though Government spokesmen and women have affirmed that they are going ahead with this nonsense however low the turnout, there must be some tiny chance they will kick it into the long grass if the outcome is humiliating enough, so on balance I think I’ll abstain.


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