Northamptonshire Police Commissioner – People Must Vote
I wonder how many people in Northampton realise that they will be invited to elect the first Northamptonshire Police Commissioner in November this year and just how influential their vote might be in determining the future of policing in Northampton through to 2016.
Research seems to indicate that nationally the apathy and lack of awareness is staggering so we can expect all of the political parties to start ramping up for what appears to be one of the least well thought out and unexplained Government policies.
The one certainty is that it is going to happen, and sadly people are already saying it is a foregone conclusion and will no doubt end up being a political appointment anyway especially if there is a very low turn out so why get involved.
What the Northampton electorate should realise and understand is that they will if they don’t vote find themselves with a police commissioner who may well be a political appointment that might not be in the interest of the people living in Northampton.
Northampton as the County Town is the single largest electorate in Northamptonshire and if they turn out in force it will have a major influence on who becomes the first Police Commissioner.
Why is it important?
It will be the Police Commissioner who determines the strategic direction of policing across Northamptonshire and the choice will no doubt be between opposing approaches and options to policing.
Option One may well be what is referred to as a ‘care-bear’ approach in which the perpetrators of crime are seen as themselves being victims of society,
Options Two being a ’rat catcher’ approach where perpetrators are hunted and all of the sympathy goes to the victims, and of course there will be option three.
Option Three, ‘the third way’ option in which a balance will be struck that won’t in anyway satisfy supporters of the first two options.
In my experience in working for the prison service and as a local councillor I think that the majority of people not only in Northampton and the County but across the whole of the UK will favour Option Two.
This of course will bring the Police Commissioner into direct conflict with the Government who favour a softer community sentencing approach somewhere between Option 1 and 2, a conflict that can only be resolved if the elected commissioner is someone who supports the Government agenda which is of course and naturally what they will promote.
The problem is where does this leave the Chief Constable whose position will be at the mercy of the Police Commissioner who themselves will have an eye to future elections and may always be looking to secure their own position.
For example, if there had been rioting in Northampton on the scale of that seen in London last August who would take the responsibility and blame for any shortcomings in policing?
Would it be the elected Police Commissioner and if so should they resign, or would the blame and fault be passed to the Chief Constable who would them be removed from their post by the very Commissioner who dictated the strategic policy, direction and allocation of funding and police resources?
What is needed from whoever becomes Northamptonshire’s first, and I suspect if there is a change in Government in 2015 quite possibly the last Police Commissioner is someone who understands the needs of a disciplined force working operationally to deliver a strategic policy designed to meet the needs and aspirations of the people.
They will also have to understand just exactly what and how the criminal justice system works in practice if they are going to gain the respect and confidence of the police, probation service, courts, prisons and most of all the public.
It is why the people of Northampton of voting age should start to take this issue seriously, question the candidates whenever they are announced and vote to make sure that they elect the right person and not a politically motivated guided puppet of the Government.
Footnote :- If the Conservative County and Borough Councils are so supportive of Police Commissioners wouldn’t it be a good idea for them to reverse their cuts in police funding to give whoever is elected to the post a fighting chance of success?