I know from experience as a police officer that, all too often, politicians believe they have a greater access to the police than ordinary members of the public.
This leaves me with the nagging doubt as to the need to have police and crime commissioners.
In my first year as a police officer, I arrested a man for drunk-driving. I was on foot patrol at the time and had no trouble catching up with the car as the driver was slumped over the steering wheel travelling down a main road at three miles per hour.
It was only when I got him to the police station that I realised that this man had friends in high places. I was taken to one side and given advice about arresting people like this…
Shortly after, I was sent to a rural outpost. A report came in about a boy racer speeding along a country road. I interviewed the witness and as no offences other than a noisy exhaust were disclosed, I offered to track the lad down and tell him to get it fixed.
Within the hour, I was ordered to go back to the witness, take a full statement, haul the lad in, interview him under caution, have a road traffic officer take road measurements and prepare a file for the Crown Prosecution Service.
Why? It turned out that the witness was a councillor and had rung my boss directly to say that they wanted their pound of flesh.
Hours of time were wasted just to pacify the desires of a politician.
These, I regret to say, are not the only times I have witnessed political influence within the police force.
There is a great need for the public to have a say in how the police forces in our country are run.
After all, the police carry out their duties only with our consent – something they often seem to forget.
However, I am not sure having a member of a political party as the conduit between the police and the public is a good thing.
Politics and the police just don’t mix and it will be a sad day when our confidence in officers is eroded even further by the so-called “woke warriors” embedded in some political parties.
Years ago, I swore an oath that I would police without fear or favour. To me, that meant that everyone was equal in the eyes of the law.
I am quite sure that all those recently elected to the post of PCC are good and honest people, but they will have to keep a wary eye out for those who seek to use them for their own ends.
Financially, the post of PCC is a waste of money. The salary alone is more than a normal person would ever dream of earning. It is a glorious job creation scheme that could be done at half the price by a politically neutral and transparent body.
I have to ask why we have 40 commissioners in the country? Each can earn up to £100,000 a year and heaven knows how much their offices cost to run, let alone the cost of the elections every four years.
There would also seem to be a lack of accountability. A report by the National Audit Office in 2014 said there were few checks and balances and the police and crime panels set up to scrutinise the work of the PCCs lacked the powers they needed.
It is important that the public have access to the police, but this should not come via a political office. There needs to be a national body to replace county PCCs.
No single person should be in such a position of influence, especially when they do not have a mandate.
In 2016, the electorate for the PCC contests was nearly 33.7 million – 31.4 million in England and 2.25 million in Wales.
Yet, only 9.2 million votes were cast; of those required to vote “in person”, the turnout was 26.6 per cent where local elections were also being held; 14.0 per cent where they were not. That is a dismal turnout for such an important vote and does not constitute a real mandate for the job.
Figures for this month’s PCC elections are still being collated but the turnout in North Yorkshire was just 25.33 per cent – in other words one quarter of the electorate.
The turnout alone shows that people are not interested in the concept of police commissioners. It is an American idea that does not sit well with the British mindset.
Hopefully, those in government may soon see the error of this experiment and find another way to monitor the budget and working of the police force.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He now lives in East Yorkshire.
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