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Have Your Say: Should Police and Crime Commissioners be abolished?

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: November 26, 2013

PCCMartynUnderhill

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill

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Furious police chiefs in the West mounted a fightback last night against a major report into the future of policing, with one local commissioner branding it “outdated”.

A political row blew up over the way the police forces in the West should be run in the future, in the wake of a report by Lord Stevens, the former head of the Metropolitan Police, which called for the scrapping of local constabularies, a national police force and a return to bobbies on the beat.

The sweeping reforms recommended by Lord Stevens’ Independent Police Commission, which was set up two years ago by the Labour Party, also included the scrapping of the Police Commissioners, who were only elected a year ago.

Labour leader Ed Miliband welcomed the report, and said it would form the blueprint for a future Labour Government, although he said he couldn’t back the abolition of the 40-plus different county constabularies.

But those police commissioners in the West led the counter attack against Lord Stevens’ report, with one claiming it ‘lacked fizz’ and was disappointing, while another said Lord Stevens himself was essentially ‘yesterday’s man’.

Angus MacPherson, the Conservative politician elected as Wiltshire’s police commissioner, criticised Lord Stevens’ report.

“He was Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police under the Labour government when crime rates were much higher than they are today,” he said.

“Though there may be merit in some of his suggestions, the report reflects the police service as it was several years ago, and so the recommendations are outdated.

“The expressed aim of the Stevens report is to create a police service that is democratically accountable.

“But he then proposes to remove all effective democratic accountability.

“Very few people were aware of their local police authority. Fewer still would have any awareness of the mish-mash of accountability proposed in this report.

“The possibility of a state police service is raised by Lord Stevens,” he added.

“I think the police should serve the people – not the state. Commissioners are already making large efficiency gains by sharing systems, processes and resources across the region.

“I am also doing the same thing with local authority partners within Wiltshire.

“We do not need a national or regional force. That is very much yesterday’s agenda,” he said.

Dorset’s police commissioner Martyn Underhill also said he was disappointed by the Stevens report.

“The threat to the future of Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, highlighted in a report by former Met Commissioner Lord Stevens, is of ‘acute concern’,” he said.

“After just one year, the system has hardly had time to bed in and needs more time to stabilise.

“The alternative proposals in the report are a throwback to the era of police authorities. PCCs are a game changer in that they are directly elected politicians responsible for overseeing policing. Any alternative model must embrace that principle and continue to give the public a voice.

“I disagree with Lord Stevens in that the model is systematically flawed.

“Where is the evidence? PCCs across the country are making a difference.

“We are more accountable, more visible and are making huge strides in changing the Criminal Justice landscape.

“Lord Stevens has missed the most important opportunity of our generation to re-shape policing for the better.

“The report recommends numerous initiatives which have been implemented, or are in the process of being implemented.

“This long-awaited report lacks any fizz and is clearly not the vintage that many were expecting,” he added.

Lord Stevens said that despite some doing good work “the current PCC model appears to be failing to deliver”.

He added: “Over the past year there have been well-documented problems with how the PCCs have appointed their staff, how they handle their relationships with chief officers.”

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3 comments

  • GugSG  |  November 27 2013, 1:35PM

    The proposals in Lord Stevens report mostly seem eminently sensible and will certainly contribute to some sort of proper democracy in the governance of the constabulary. Policing is a difficult, unpleasant job and one that is a fundamental part of civilisation, but suffers in most countries around the world in varying degrees from the same problems - corruption, undue influence for individuals in a position to exercise such influence, and internal cultures of 'omerta' / cover-up / looking after our own. This last, in particular, remains a serious problem in the UK. The PCCs were a good idea but I was utterly amazed that the system allowed ex police officers to stand for election! The idea was an INDEPENDANT element in the control and policy-setting - ex police officers, however well intentioned, are never going to be sufficiently independant ... the 'looking after our own' culture is inevitably too ingrained. There are pro's and con's regarding replacing local constabularies with a single National force. The biggest advantage of a national force would be that one could then reasonably expect the law of the land to be enforced and implemented uniformly nationwide, which is certainly NOT the case at present. Some constabularies have totally different policies to others and have the power, all too often, to make their own decisions as to how regulations are implemented, if at all, and even not to 'sign up' to some new regulations at all (I bet that a lot of you didn't even know that!). As to the present IPCC system, the idea of having the police 'police' themselves is always going to suffer to some degree from the ingrained 'looking after our own' culture and is therefore fundamentally unfit for purpose. The presence, advice and contribution of skilled, experienced, officers is clearly essential but there MUST be truly independant overall control.

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  • fedupwithtosh  |  November 27 2013, 12:07PM

    Get rid of them. Can't see what use they are anyway! We have never found them necessary in the past so why are they necessary now? Absolutely ridiculous!! We pay enough in our taxes as it is without having to cough up for them too. Retire gracefully and put your feet up or get out there and do some voluntary work as there is plenty of that about. STOP WASTING OUR MONEY!!!!

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  • philwallace  |  November 27 2013, 8:32AM

    Yes, abolish them - how can it be that our excellent Chief Constable is subject to the guidance of a retired Chief Inspector? And other Chief Constables are ruled, obstructed and sometimes bullied out of their positions by people with even less basis in experience and real authority. Let's go back to the more effective, cheaper and accountable Police Authority.

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