UK police and crime commissioner elections

Dr Stephen Brookes, Senior Fellow Public Policy and Management at Manchester Business School and a former policeman talks about today’s elections.

“A potential paradox of the elections is that, the more authority is focused into the hands of an individual, the less democratic the situation can become. Democratic legitimacy is not just about party politics; it is also about collective and collaborative community leadership. Focusing on crime on its own from a party viewpoint and without local engagement will be difficult and will lead to short-termism. It should be about a focus on real life problems and how to solve them; it is not about political expediency, a party’s line, or being seen to be doing something. Deep, long-term problems such as unemployment and family breakdown lie behind crime figures, requiring local organisations such as youth support bodies, healthcare workers and social workers to be brought together.

“It was clear that significant barriers faced independents as soon as the nomination processes and procedures emerged. This showed that the real danger of the current police reform is that it over-politicises the police; by tilting the system against independent candidates. Public engagement is not the same as party political involvement. The possibility of losing one’s deposit, set against a probable low turnout and a clear push for political control with all the machinery that supports this, makes the aspiration to even stand for election less attractive. The anticipated low turn-out will lead to fewer opportunities for independents to make their mark. For example, Falklands veteran Simon Weston, who wanted to stand as an independent but pulled out.

“The opportunity to enable true public engagement in police governance is to be welcomed but the notion of police independence must be preserved.  As Lord Denning said as long ago as 1968, no minister of the crown can tell a police officer what to do or which persons to arrest; the constable is answerable to the law alone. This must still hold true, and was further endorsed by Lord Scarman following the 1981 Brixton Riots when he argued that “the exercise of police judgement has to be as independent as the exercise of professional judgement by a doctor or a lawyer. If it is not, the way is open to manipulation and abuse of the law whether for political or for private ends"." 

Dr Brookes was also interviewed on this subject by The Daily Telegraph >>