Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Police Commissioner voting

Tomorrow, I’m expected to vote on one of the major issues affecting my life: the policing of my town and county. I’m supposed to choose a commissioner who will be able to hire and fire senior officers, and set police budgets.

They’ll have the power to decide whether solving crime is financially viable or not. Technically, this could mean that if the burglary division uses its allotted funds within six months, the commissioner could refuse to allow them to investigate further for the rest of that fiscal year.

Quite an important position then.

So why do I know nothing of the candidates and their suitability for the role? How do I know which of them is best qualified for the job, most likely to understand the needs of police and public, and most able to work with the force to be effective in the fight against crime and the struggle to make Sussex safe?

I’ve had no flyers, no manifestos, no notice of public meetings. Nothing.

I did try looking up the candidates online. I found a page in the Sussex Police website which listed their names, but little else. It said some were affiliated to political parties – an open invitation to future questions of impartiality if ever I saw one.

There was no indication that any of the hopefuls had experience in policing, or understood what police officers deal with daily. No explanation of how they would do the job. Until this week only one candidate had bothered to write a statement saying why he’d like the post, although two others have now done so.

Last night there was a ten minute segment on the local news, when each candidate spoke. One kept on about her business experience. She obviously thought having a track record in keeping to a budget was the most important thing. Well, personally, I couldn't care less about the budget. If keeping us safe and crime free requires more money than the police have got, find the money. You could always take it from the commissioner's salary, politicians' expenses and all those civic dos they seem to like to attend.

Another kept on about how much experience he had with charity work. So?

A third made a lot of the specials and how they could be used to better effect. Specials have their place, but they are meant to complement the paid, full time officers, not to replace them.

I was left wondering if the one thing none of the candidates had to recommend them was a real concern for the police force and their ability to do their job properly, unhindered and unfettered.

The winner of this election will, undoubtedly, be powerful. The wrong person could conceivably make life less safe for us all, police and public alike. Yet we’re being asked to make the choice blindfold.

Considering what’s at stake, is that fair?

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