Some are asking whether the Government has got it in for policing. Winsor seems intent on demoralising the rank and file, while Police & Crime Commissioners leave the top ranks concerned about political interference.
So will policing be better with Police & Crime Commissioners? I’m sure all candidates will want to make it better – but the reality is that they will have less money to spend than current services cost. With the economy failing to provide people with the jobs and standard of living they aspire to, it is an unfortunate fact that more people will turn to crime. Commissioners can do nothing on their own to halt this cycle. They will be able to sack the Chief Constable on a whim – but they are unlikely to recruit someone better if potential candidates realise they’ll be working for someone who does that. But if a Commissioner understands the limitations of their own power, he or she can play a significant role in ensuring that:
- At a local level, people understand that we really are all in it together – and need to work together to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour
- Agencies recognise that working together will achieve better outcomes – for example if A&E departments can help the police identify hotspots for violence and the police use this intelligence effectively, the pressure on A&E will reduce as there will be fewer incidents. And if councils and police work with each other and with the local community suffering a problem, they can improve public confidence in the agencies and the community’s confidence in itself.
- Officers of their Force at every level understand the need to explain to the public what they are doing and why – and to secure their involvement and support.
In Wales, we have an added challenge. Policing has sat uncomfortably in recent years as a non-devolved service operating in a devolved environment. Welsh Commissioners can overcome this divide by committing to work together and with the Welsh Government to put in place a joined up Welsh approach, while at the same time ensuring that appropriate cross-border co-operation continues.
There has been much talk of “independents” as if the lack of a party affiliation tells us more about someone. I don’t buy that. Is an “independent” candidate telling us they have no views on the major issues of the day or are they not telling us what their views are? By standing as a Labour candidate I am telling you what I believe in:
The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.
I’m not saying that an independent candidate doesn’t believe in these things, just that announcing they are independent doesn’t tell me what they DO believe in – and before voting, wouldn’t you like to know?
Of course there is more to it than the party label and there are various strands of thought within the Labour Party. The co-operative approach is very important to me: it is not about “the government” doing things, it is about people working together for a common purpose, sometimes through government and sometimes through their own organisations. “The bosses” and the “the workers” need to recognise each others’ roles instead of seeing each other as “the enemy”.
Political neutrality is important in civil servants and in police officers, because it is the politicians who stand for election and the civil servants who ensure that their policies are implemented. In the forthcoming election, it is important that candidates make clear where they stand on issues – but also that they are absolutely clear that they will not compromise the impartiality of police officers. A good Commissioner of whatever party and none will be very clear that they expect all police officers to abide by that oath, serving with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people.