Fears raised over police commissioners politicising policing
11:42 16 February 2012
FEARS have been raised over elected police commissioners with critics hitting out at what they claim is the politicising of policing.
In November police commissioners will be voted into office in both Herts and Cambs, taking over the running of the forces from police authorities.
The move has sparked concerns that the new officials, who will be paid £60,000 - £100,000 a year, will be partisan and pander to public opinion to get elected.
David Bell, parliamentary spokesman for North East Herts Labour Party said: “We’re not at all happy about the whole idea, because it doesn’t have continuity.
“You change the commissioner every four years and it’s going to be a politician. I know there are politicians on the police authority, but there’s a range of parties.
“It will play to the feelings of the people. There’s the cost to the county, and a cost to all the political parties as well.”
Mr Bell was also concerned over the way he said the elections would be run, as it would use the supplementary voting system rather than first past the post.
But Royston’s MP Oliver Heald defended the government reform.
He said: “It has been trialled in London with the London Mayor acting as the police authority commissioner.
“It seems to have worked there, and they have seen a drop in crime by about 10 per cent. I think it makes the police have a clear understanding of the public’s concerns.
“I don’t want policing to become political, but it doesn’t seem to have happened in London. I think Boris Johnson has explained what the public’s concerns are without being political.
“So I think it’s up to whoever the commissioner is to think about everyone in the county, or area.
“In terms of Hertfordshire I would like the commissioner to make sure rural areas and semi rural areas, like market towns, are properly policed.”
Mr Heald also said he thought that police commissioners would be more accountable, and that being voted in would enable them to represent the electorate’s view.
But the view was not shared by Lib Dem Cambs county councillor Susan van de Ven.
“Why do we need a high profile politician to run the police? I think this is a mistake,” the representative for Foxton, Heydon, Melbourn, Meldreth, Shepreth and the Chishills said.
“The notion that one high profile commissioner can provide more democratic accountability for 700,000 residents than is currently the case is far-fetched.
“The Police Authority now has 17 members, of which 11 are elected councillors. Their job is to make sure that our money is spent properly and effectively.
“What we have now is a more accountable and sensible system than the new one coming forward.”
Nationwide, it is estimated the election will cost £50m.