Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Power to the people?

I suppose it's typical in a way that the party that did its utmost to politicise the police (Yes New Labour we're looking at you) objects to the public actually being given a chance to have some control over the police.

The government's planned shake-up of policing in England and Wales is an "unnecessary, unwanted and expensive diversion", shadow home secretary Alan Johnson has said.
In a Commons statement on 26 July 2010, Home Secretary Theresa May claimed plans for electing police commissioners and replacing the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) with a national crime-fighting force represented "the most radical reforms to policing in at least 50 years".
But Mr Johnson described parts of the statement as "infantile drivel... probably written by some pimply nerd foisted upon her office by No 10".
He argued that the new proposals were a "triple whammy" for the police, attacking planned budget cuts and measures to restrict the use of DNA and CCTV.
Mr Johnson also asked how Mrs May would "safeguard the independence" of chief constables under the new system.
He told her: "There is a clear argument for enhancing and increasing the role and responsibility of local government so that local councillors have a clear mandate for holding the police to account.
"That is the route we should be taking rather than this unnecessary, unwanted and expensive diversion."
But Mrs May accused Labour of being "complacent" on law and order.
She told MPs: "The average police constable is spending only 14% of their time on the streets and 22% in filling forms."
Now whether or not this will have the effect that Theresa May thinks it will or not is moot. It has become apparent over the last 13 years that the police are not doing the job that most members of the public think they should be doing. Increasing use of intrusive legislation by the previous government has caused friction between the public and the police to the extent that even taking a photograph in public now carries a threat of arrest, harassment or confiscation of equipment and deletion of images, both illegal under current law but it has happened, even in my own town of Chatham. The police under the previous Labour government moved further away from policing by consent to becoming an arm of the state used to enforce the states dictates rather than uphold the law by way of the Peelian principles.
Will elected Chief Constables sort out the problem? I don't know, but it will certainly give the public an opportunity to kick the mealy mouthed, political phrase spouting chief constables selected for the posts by Labour. After all, a vote for me and I'll cut crime will work so much better than a vote for me to increase community cohesiveness, gender equality and multicultural inclusiveness. They will be judged by results, rather than politically correct box ticking and getting more police out doing stuff that the public can see will no doubt be a vote winner too, so long as they aren't harassing us with petty interferences such as grabbing cameras.
Johnson of course wants more political control of the police via local councils, which might be fine if some weren't so dogma ridden as to be untrustworthy to look after local people rather than spouting the party line.
So the May idea has potential, whether it works only time will tell, politicians are loathe to allow anything to slip their control so it might only be window dressing. It's certainly a better idea than Labours though, anyone looking at the career of Sir Ian Blair could tell you that.

4 annotations:

John M Ward said...

Yes, it is something that needs to be tried. I have my own reservations about the idea, but accept that it is currently the best we have seen, and it does work well (on the whole) where it has already been implemented.

Alan Johnson just wants to continue the Politburo style of centralised dictatorial government, once again betraying his Communist roots.

Woman on a Raft said...

I also have my doubts but the idea that the police are their own legal and moral arbiters has got to be changed.

Anonymous said...

Obviously I speak as an outside here because fortunately that woman has no say over our policing....

It will be interesting to see if you can "unpoliticize" something by allowing people to vote for it.

People standing for election will undoubtedly become "political" figures. And of course I dare say there will have to be a woman on the shortlist and probably an ethnic minority too.

I have my doubts, but it's something that has come from America, as most of the current government's (and the last ones) policies have, so it will be interesting to see if the elected sheriff works in England. It has certainly become political in some places in America.

I hope it does work. Woman on a raft certainly has a point. Someone has to control the police.

Anonymous said...

Directly elected politicans managing our police locally. Because local politicians are so successful at managing Chatham roadworks, public works and the like. There backstabbing and factional interests would see movement of resources to particular areas at the expense of those in the most need.

I thought our government was about trusting professionals to get on with the job and not tinkering.

They have got it right with Academies and wrong with the Police.

We need less political control of education, police and the NHS. This is a retrograde step.