By Mike Speakman, Retired Deputy Chief Constable
Policing, Law & Order Spokesman
Many professionals from the police and other public bodies warned against the creation of Police and Crime Commissioners. They warned it would politicise policing, it would undermine the independence of the police and introduce a heavy political element into policing.
Not true we were told. PCCs would not have operational control and the post would not be political. Now we can see how we were misled. Look at the situation in Greater Manchester. Commentators are suggesting that the reason Boris is hesitant about imposing a Tier three lockdown on the area is that amongst other reasons he cannot be sure the police will enforce it. Why is this?
The question being asked “is to whom do the police owe allegiance?” In days gone by this would have been easy to answer. The police are there to enforce the law in the interests of the local population. There would not historically, have been a discrepancy between the law and police enforcement of it, but now the police are perceived as accountable to their Police and Crime Commissioner. In GMP we have a situation where the PCC who is also the Regional Mayor is also at odds with the government. The Chief Constables job is in the hands of the PCC. This is a most unhealthy situation.
I have long argued that a Chief Constables role is to keep politicians at arm’s length, whilst still being accountable. The creation of the PCC role has made this very difficult if not impossible. The previous arrangements meant accountability to a corporate body, the Police Authority. This meant that no one political person or ideology could hijack the police. In GMP the PCC role has become very political and there is a risk of operational control of the police being used by a PCC for political ends, all of which we were promised would not happen.
The combination of PCC role and Regional Mayors has the potential to create quasi autonomous republics around the country, where the governments writ may not apply at all, or at least is impaired. London is a very good example. The Metropolitan Police certainly appear to be operating to the Mayors agenda, evidenced by the differential policing of demonstrations and protest in the capital, where the law is imposed on some sections of the community and not others.
Some Chief Constables are very close to their Police and Crime Commissioners and this is a fundamental perversion of the role. We need to remove the current tier of police leaders and once again find the fiercely independent Chiefs of old who had the bottle to tell the politicians when to back off.
Our party would replace Police and Crime commissioners with a directly elected public body. Politicians and Police Chiefs should never be “Mates”.