9 Dec 2011
Police Reform Act
Firstly I am unclear about why we need to replace the current system? Where is it failing? Well of course this is a political move - it is argued it is about making the police becoming more accountable.....of course we want police accountable but to what and whom? There are ways of holding someone accountable without requiring elections. It seems more of a move to deflect criticism from government when things don't go right....
However perhaps my biggest concern is about putting someone in charge of the police whose political fortunes are dependent on the success of the force - as I said at the meeting this is surely potentially dangerous? Police must not be swayed by public opinion - we can't have arrests just because someone is calling for blood or because the media portray someone as 'creepy'. Some have noted the Bridgewater 4 miscarriages of justice were possibly in part because of the public pressures on the police. What safeguards do we have to ensure politics doesn't get into policing?
Well the answers I got regarding the Police and Crime Panels, media and monitors office were not wholly satisfactory - there is still a grave risk that politics will now be a part of policing. And what about some eccentric getting elected? I suspect Chief Constables are in for a tough time in some areas.
In terms of the new Police and Crime Panels, Glos is in a good position as we already have a Community Safety Scrutiny. Stroud District will be able to elect one person to that Panel. Lastly I raised the issue of elections. If delayed until November as is now planned the turn out will potentially be very low indeed - a Lancashire Police survey showed people have very little understanding of the role and already local politics doesn't bring in great numbers to vote. My question was about how can we help the public understand better to engage with the process. I learnt that this issue is not being looked at yet - however they will take on board my concerns.