Why a political elected Police Commissioner is a dangerous idea

Next November there will be the election for local Police Commissioners in Staffordshire and Stoke – as it will be everywhere else in the country. It is likely that all the main political parties will be entering candidates. Already there seems evidence that the party HQs are controlling the business about who becomes the candidate. In North Wales, for instance, the local Labour Party is accused of trying to impose a short list of three without internal party debate. The other political parties will want to control the process.

I am sure that eventually the candidate in Stoke and the rest of the county will soon emerge. The position of the Labour party is an interesting one as they began opposed to the principle of Police Commissioners on the grounds of cost and the possibility that the police will come under political influence. That opposition however evaporated as the post became an eventuality. There are suggestions that the newly elected commissioners will require advisers and an unnecessary level of bureaucracy which is an inevitability with such changes. However the concerns that politics will get in the way of operational matters and even the administration of justice.

I will cite an example that should cause some concern. In May 2010 the independent candidate in Longton South complained that she was intimidated and that even one of her supporters was assaulted by an Asian supporter of the Labour party candidate. She complained about examples of electoral malfeasance and fraud. That was nearly two years ago and there is no evidence at least from a reading of the local newspaper that these allegations have either been investigated either by the police or the City Council. It might be that the Police do not consider this a matter for serious investigation. On the other hand they and the City Council might view the possibility that the south Asian community might be involved in fraud difficult politically to address as the Party is dependent on the vote of this community.

There is a wider issue of fraud which has a bearing on the political nature of the posts. Stuart Wilks-Heeg of Democratic Audit, a research group, points out that British Asians make up half of all those convicted since 2000. Where fraud is most common–such as in Burnley, Oldham, Birmingham–and allegations most persistent there are also large Asian populations. He points to “biraderi”, brotherhood networks, used to rally support for particular candidates–a practice imported from Pakistan.

On the basis that a Labour elected Police Commissioners might be constrained pursuing with vigour this practice because they are reliant on the Asian vote then a political police Commissioner must fill us with concern.


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