Exclusive: Brian the Snail to run in PCC race

English: The white-lipped snail (Cepaea horten...

Please excuse my cynical flippancy for a moment… But, despite all the previous efforts of our government in drumming up support for their Police Crime Commissioners (PCC) proposals, it would appear they have mostly failed…

Despite any PR work that has/hasn’t been done, the public haven’t apparently warmed to the hot-air of political rhetoric and media hype. In short, the proposals are still mostly misunderstood by many but more worrying perhaps, probably just as many members of the public don’t even have any tangible interest in the subject.

Up to this point it would seem that only the practitioners, or those with a vested personal or organisational interest, have sat up to take any note of what is going on. Oh and people like me, a member of the public who perhaps unfashionably, actually gives a damn about the quality of police service being delivered in our society today. It would appear there is a shortage of like-minded individuals – PCC: Have you got what it takes?

The shortage of police commissioner candidates roles is a serious problem. It’s no job for ex-local MPs wanting a sinecure…(guardian.co.uk)

Earlier this month Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, took up his PCC powers for the city, this was a precursor for the remaining elections due to be held in November. So the search is on to find the remaining 41 PCCs for England and Wales but many are still wondering who is in the running however; it appears that search is little more than an amble, as opposed to any full-blown race. Perhaps that’s the reason for the renewed impetus and media coverage lately, let alone any candidates belatedly sticking their heads above the proverbial parapet.

PCCs are part of the government’s police reform process – Policing in the 21st century: reconnecting police and the people – a strategy which resulted in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. The Home Office website page on PCCs have proclaimed that; “crime commissioner will be accountable for how crime is tackled in their police force areas” but many cynics, and I have to partly include myself in that category, are still a little sceptical of the government’s plans.

Take for example the fact that, once PCCs are finally in place, it will be easier to blame them for police failings (actual or perceived), as opposed to the government of the day. A great advantage for any blame shifting political party concerned about their public popularity, don’t you think?

Irrespective of any party political advantages, many people are also rightly asking (assuming they have an interest in the first place) questions like; will PCCs make any tangible difference to how we are policed and, if the service is in fact ‘more accountable’ to the public they serve, but doesn’t this also compound the difficulties presented by politics in policing, even more than before’?

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) have raised their concerns (see report), not least of which were those around the operational independence of Chief Constables. The Association of Police Authorities (APA) were quick to nail their colours to a similar wall of opinion. 

The APA is fundamentally opposed to the introduction of PCCs for a number of significant reasons, not least  the very real risk of politicising police accountability through single issue elections and endangering the very fabric of the British model of policing, a model that is the envy of the world…(apa.police.uk)

I suspect the stance of the APA may have a little more to do with political self-preservation, as opposed to any genuine desire to uphold the operational autonomy of any Chief Constable. Many police authorities are currently in the process of setting up Police and Crime Panels – a required part of the reform process to oversee the PCCs.

In Cleveland the proposal is to have 12 councillors from the four authorities and two independent members – would scrutinise the Police and Crime Commissioner. It would have the power of veto over the appointment of a Chief Constable and the precept proposed by the commissioner…(gazettelive.co.uk)

Public response to the proposals couldn’t be refered to as complimentary, as some of the comments to the article quoted above would tend to evidence.

Another gravy-train position by the sound of it…(Bubba)

A golden opportunity for organised crime lords to finally take over the criminal justice system brought to our streets by a Government determined to avoid responsibility for the huge increases in crime stimulated by their inept management…(cmk42)

Sounds exactly alike the current system but the leader is called the commissioner, surely the leader must be qualified not merely voted in, i feel a free for all coming on…(EasyC)

And all this before you even start to consider the impact upon the public purse.

The cost of introducing police and crime commissioners could reach more than £136m over 10 years, government documents show…(bbc.co.uk)

The Temporary Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, Jacqui Cheer, although not speaking on behalf of her peers per se, but probably indicative of their view in general, has also recently voiced “unease” over the issue.

The fear is they (Police Commissioners) will focus solely on local issues, issues such as criminal damage and anti-social behaviour and take resources away from areas such as child protection, community protection, people trafficking and computer-based crime, services that are not clearly visible to the public…(D&S Times)

The Shadow Home Secretary Ed Balls MP, probably mostly as a point scoring exercise in the party political war about who is toughest on crime, has also been quoted as saying: “This goes against a 150-year tradition of keeping politics out of policing.”

“It raises the very real prospect of a politician telling a chief constable how to do their job. Even the government’s own consultation confirms the very real fear that plans for elected police chiefs will see money spent on bringing politicians into running the police instead of on the front line.” (Ed Balls MP)

Nearer to home, one candidate for election to the PCC position in North Yorkshire has this week publicised his intentions. 
<:hgroup>Peter Walker (a retired Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police) is applying to the Conservative Party to be their candidate for York and North Yorkshire (see press release). The Chairman of our local Police Federation raised the following questions on Facebook.

First candidate to publicly declare. Who will get backing of political parties? Will Peter or anyone else stand as independent if they don’t get political backing? (North Yorkshire Police Federation)

Peter Walker replied to the comments by saying…

I am applying to the Conservative Party Membership to be their candidate. If I am unsuccessful, that will be that and I will support the person they select. I anticipate their will be Independent candidates and those from other parties. My job is simple – persuade the Membership I am the right choice and then the rest of the electorate. Then will come the difficult bit – cutting out the bureaucracy and ensuring that Police Officer numbers stop falling and start getting back to where they were! I’m sure this will be an interesting debate – but the most important thing is NYP – not PW or anybody else…(Peter Walker)

I suspect that most PCC candidates will turn out to be attached to and/or put forward by one political party or another. After all, how many truly independents will actually possess the where-with-all to go it alone, financially or otherwise? But irrespective of that fact, and having worked with and under the command of Peter in the past, I am reasonably confident that; he not only possess the required experience and knowledge but also, he has the true value of effective policing, the community residents and the officers that serve that community at heart.

Perhaps Brian the Snail wouldn’t be such a bad candidate after all? It has to be a better proposition than some of the other TV stars and so-called ‘celebrities’ who’ve allegedly thrown their names into the pot so far (see here).

Who would win between Peter and Brian (or anyone else for that matter)? Well that’s another matter, one that is wholly reliant upon the interest of the public, and dependent upon the intellect of the county’s electorate… In the Magic Roundabout of British politics, I suppose anything is possible! 🙂

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