In 2012 I questioned the overall value of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role in UK policing. I wrote on the YorkMix… “Many questions regarding the Police and Crime Commissioner elections still remain, a few days before the vote. Will we see any solid advantages realised in the policing of our society” – (read more).
You’ll note from my original piece that I wasn’t that enamoured with our Government’s PCC raison d’être – a political pipe dream of blame shifting for service delivery failures – let alone any perceived policing ‘values’ for the communities at the receiving end of that service.
Lauded as “the biggest shake-up of policing for almost 50 years” the 2012 elections were (by any standards) an electoral disaster. The average turnout was below 15% and that figure dropped even lower to 10.4% for a 2014 West Midlands PCC by-election. So, with the lowest turnout of electors in peacetime Britain then, is it likely there will be any tangible difference this time around?
Over the last four years there has been considerable expenditure of public money on the role of PCC but has any of that actually been money well spent? Have those who were elected in the past, managed to change the public view of the PCC role? Have the public changed their opinion about the relevance or perceived importance of the role in policing of their community, or our society as a whole? In short, what’s really any different this time around?
The North Yorkshire PCC candidates (below) have started campaigning in earnest (all be it a little late), but as far as I can see, attendance at the hustings doesn’t bode well for the future election turnout. I wouldn’t be surprised if the limited mandate achieved previously was very similar this time around. If anything, the last four years has probably served to create even greater levels of disinterest, along with distrust in some areas, than was previously the case.
- James Blanchard (Liberal Democrat): “I want to be a different kind of Police and Crime Commissioner – listening to and available for local residents.”
- Stephen Howley (Labour Party): “I am not just the Labour candidate, I am the voice from the frontline someone who will genuinely fight for your frontline emergency services.”
- Julia Mulligan (Conservative Party): “Policing is changing. The next 4 years will be vital and we need an experienced PCC with a record of fighting North Yorkshire’s corner, as well as delivering improvements locally.”
- Mike Pannett (Independent): “…only I can provide the service you deserve, free from political spin and partisan agenda.”
The one person who had a prime opportunity to change any negativity in public perceptions was the current post incumbent. This factor has been evident in many areas across England and Wales, not just locally. Of even greater relevance in this second election is the sad fact; the words and deeds of many have actually served to foster or bolster greater levels of public disillusionment / distrust about the role of PCC.
Too many have been embroiled in high-profile wrangling over personal, political and financial discrepancies. Skeletons have fallen from cupboards with alarming regularity and it would appear continue to do so. Any specific achievements in policing delivery, which in reality are few and far between, have mostly been overshadowed in the stench of a media fuelled public opinion dung heap. What the PCC may have done to improve policing in any area of the UK has become almost irrelevant. The electorate (public and police) remains unconvinced about what if anything a PCC can do to change policing for the better.
From what I’ve seen in both mainstream and social media, it would appear very few in the PCC ‘game’ have actually stepped up to the mark so far. Too few have actually devoted effort into much more than self-promotion. Some weren’t there for the right reasons in the first place. Some were simply looking for a convenient back-door entry into politics. Far too few have put sufficient effort into the marketing and promotion of their role (as opposed to themselves), to provide greater public understanding and trust. This has also been woefully evident locally.
The quality of ‘service delivery’ we actually get from our police is actually down to those on the front line of that service. But, as with other emergency services and the NHS, or any other public service for that matter, ‘quality’ is too often impeded and/or stifled by inept / inappropriate, politically motivated and self-promotional management constraints.
With the factor of ‘service delivery’ firmly in mind, I found an interesting read from fellow blogger (Cate Moore), all be it mostly relevant to the Lincolnshire PCC election.
As a member of the Labour Party, I thought I would simply vote for the Labour candidate but when I actually looked at the candidates and evaluated their worth to Policing and the wider PCC remit… I am well aware of the irony of me supporting a Conservative candidate but I can cope with that, to get someone in to a position where I think they can really make a difference and after all, that’s what Public Service is all about. (Read More)
In reality, the PCC role is actually part of our current national political structures, and indeed the predominant corporate bullshit of our business world in that; we are consistently being shafted by self-interest and hot air sound bites from self-promoting individuals who dress their words up as genuine concern for our society… It’s simply a contrived ‘scam’ of public appeasement and nothing much has changed since 2012.
Note: Elections for police and crime commissioners will take place across most of England and Wales on 5 May 2016. For those who don’t know what all this is about, there is a BBC guide that provides information about; what PCCs are supposed to do and how the system is supposed to work (see here).