Posts Tagged ‘police and crime commissioners’

Give PCCs a chance

02/09/2014, 12:07:40 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Okay, it’s not been a good week for police and crime commissioners. The derisory 10.4 per cent turnout in the by-election to elect a new commissioner for the West Midlands was bad enough; but the shambles over South Yorkshire’s commissioner, Shaun Wright, quitting the Labour party in order to hold onto power, after previously being responsible for children’s services in Rotherham, plumbed a new depth.

A gift, then, to those who would happily see the entire model of direct public accountability over the police fail. Unfortunately, this appears to extend to the Labour frontbench. At the weekend, the Sunday Mirror quoted a party source, apparently reading the last rites over PCCs: “They’re finished. The only question now is what we will replace them with.” What indeed?

When the legislation was introduced in 2010, Labour described PCCs as an “unnecessary, unwanted and expensive diversion”. This reflected the view of the police establishment. The then president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, predicted chief constables would quit rather than endure a new layer of democratic accountability. It was an empty threat.

Even so, the police hate police and crime commissioners, hankering for a return to the old system of servile police authorities made up of “invisible” political placemen who were, in reality, little more than ciphers for the chief constable.

Theresa May – the most reforming home secretary in decades – remains unmoved. She has pressed on, smashing the cosy, ineffectual consensus around police accountability. The introduction of PCCs has been accompanied by long overdue reforms to police pay and conditions and she has brought in a tough outsider, Tom Winsor, as chief inspector of constabulary to drive improvements in service standards.

Unfortunately, Labour now finds itself cast as the conservative party when it comes to police reform; willing to do the chief constables’ bidding by focusing on cuts rather than reform, even though this leaves the party on the wrong side of the facts. Police staffing may have reduced since 2010 but there has been no increase in recorded crime.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Letter from Wales: Police commissioners to discuss “twitter beats” for cops to tackle trolls

04/11/2013, 07:00:32 AM

by Julian Ruck

If one was enjoying a pint in a pub or a casual stroll in a park and all of a sudden a motley bunch of cruel antagonists were to pounce with verbal abuse and barrages of weakling insult and threat, the police would jump pretty sharpish.

Not so it seems, at least where the much lowered tone and corruption of Berners-Lee intent is concerned. These pornographers of free speech can provoke suicides, breakdowns, destruction of reputations at will and all with a uniquely derisive impunity.

Democracy in action? It is time is it not, for a fresh look at these new 21st Century multi-headed monsters?

In recent times the media has been beside itself with the rampant pillaging of civilised behaviour by those who seek to make sexism, raw intimidation and vicious personal attack, veritable art forms.

All is not lost however. Readers will remember that only a few weeks ago I interviewed Dyfed Powys Police Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon. Following my interview, his office advise me that the Commissioner is going to discuss a new initiative with other PCC’s in an attempt to consider the potential for an online police presence tasked with patrolling internet trolling activity. Could these “twitter-beats” be the 21st century panda car equivalent of days gone by? One can only hope (or maybe not, to those of us who are old enough to remember them!), but it is at least a start.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Labour has missed a chance to be positive about police commissioners

15/11/2012, 01:42:29 PM

by Kevin Meagher

Well, here we are, the day when, if some pollsters are to be believed, fewer than one in ten of us in England and Wales will bother to trudge to the polling station and cast a vote for our first-ever police and crime commissioners.

It is fair to say that this is the most unloved choice put before the electorate since Herod offered Jerusalem voters a choice of slaughtering the first or second born.

It’s not just the prophets of doom among our number-crunching mystics who are predicting disaster. The hostile chatter across the media and British politics over the past year will make a low turnout today a self-fulfilling prophecy. I gave up going through the Labour website press release section looking for something – anything – positive that the frontbench has said about commissioners.

Yet the concept of elected police commissioners deserves a chance. A cursory glance through the independent report into the Hillsborough disaster shows why stronger oversight of our police service is so badly needed. South Yorkshire Police’s abuse of power, including running background and fingerprint checks on the dead as senior officers concocted their alibi and slur the victims, is what happens when the police have no-one able to frustrate their knavish tricks.

Chief constables enjoy almost feudal powers. Police authorities, which are supposed to act as a check and balance, are about as effective as the audit committee at Lehman Brothers. The conspiracy that resulted in the Hillsborough cover-up would not happen with a strong commissioner, ever mindful of public opinion, and ultimately personally responsible, refusing to be bowed by such evil intent.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon

Time for Labour to make its peace with the idea of police commissioners

20/06/2012, 08:11:35 AM

by Kevin Meagher

So there we have it, 41 newly-minted Labour police and crime commissioner candidates. Greeting their unveiling, Ed Miliband said the party would “make the best of a bad job”, using the elections for these new roles as a referendum on police cuts.

Meanwhile shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Labour still believed November’s elections should be “called off” and the money reinvested in frontline policing.

Do I detect a distinct lack of enthusiasm?

As I’ve argued before, Labour really should not be so curmudgeonly about elected police commissioners. With government plans rubbing out a fifth of police numbers and decimating back office staff, there is a real need for a strong democratic voice at the top of local constabularies providing public accountability about how policing is restructured in response to the cuts.

That aside, what are we to make of those selected? First of all it was a victory for high profile figures – with seven former ministers selected.

Former deputy PM John Prescott won in Humberside, although the narrowness of his victory surprised many. He won with 552 votes, with former Hull divisional police commander, Keith Hunter, running him a close second on 458.

The toughest scrap looks to have been in Merseyside though, where two former ministers went head-to-head for the nomination. Former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle took on former Northern Ireland minister Jane Kennedy in what was seen locally as something of a grudge match.

A more leisurely pace was found further down the M62 as Manchester Central MP Tony Lloyd, former chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, was confirmed as Greater Manchester’s candidate after failing to find a challenger. He was selected unopposed.

As was former Labour MEP Simon Murphy in West Mercia.

A second parliamentary by-election now looms following the selection of former Welsh first secretary Alun Michael who was elected to fight South Wales. Meanwhile his son, Tal, a former police authority official, was picked to fight in North Wales.

Former deputy leader of the House of Commons, Paddy Tipping, narrowly won the Nottinghamshire nomination, while former DWP minister James Plaskitt romped home in Warwickshire.

As did former solicitor general and Redcar MP, Vera Baird, in Northumbria.

She is one of 15 women selected as Labour PCC candidates – 37 per cent of the total.


Facebook Twitter Digg Delicious StumbleUpon