The case for an Independent Police Commissioner

There is an investing article in this week’s Latest 7, an odd little magazine but with a great writer in Frank le Duc. This week he features the only (currently) independent candidate for the Sussex Police Commissioner, Ian Chisnall. Click here for Ian’s website.

Around the country, elections for Commissioners will take place in November. According to Frank le Duc “Two Conservatives have declared their hand – East Sussex County Council leader Peter Jones and Arun District Council member Paul Dendle, who also has a county-wide role with the party. The current police authority chairman Steve Waight may also throw his hat into the ring for the Tories.”

The Greens and Lib Dems are not expected to field candidates in the Sussex Police Commissioner election.

Labour’s Paul Richards has declared his hand although a formal selection has yet to take place. Labour originally opposed the creation of Police Commissioners, but have now decided to contest these elections.

Let’s face it, the official Conservative candidate is going to be elected. All electoral mathematics points to a substantial majority. That means that it will be Conservative Party members who will, in reality, choose the Police Commissioner. This can’t be a healthy state of affairs. It means that the successful candidate has to appeal to the narrow perspective of Tory members in deepest Sussex.

The ethical challenge for Conservative Party is whether it will organise an open selection, allowing anyone in Sussex to cast a vote in order to ensure that the elected Commissioner has wider credibility.

If not, I would suggest that the Labour Party should join with the Greens and Lib Dems by not fielding a candidate, and all supporting and campaigning for an independent candidate. Labour has nothing to lose and everything to gain – the outside possibility of not having a Party political, specifically a Conservative, Commissioner.

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26 Responses

  1. As far as I can see the role as only been created to extend the number jobs available to a particular class of taxpayer funded careerist.

    Instead of cutting Chief Police officers down to size (as should have been done – starting by proscribing ‘ACPO’) we are now looking at an expensive (for the taxpayer) phony battle between what the public (supposedly) want and what the police want to do to us.

    I (like I am sure many people) have strong views on some aspects of policing – views that should be represented, but I have no interest in the day to day running of the service.

    Now some jumped up nobody whos main qualification will be being anal about micromanaging useless administration and about self aggrandisement will get to enforce what ever arbitrary views they have on policing.

    I am sure no-one here would be so childish as to advance the “if you don’t like it, run yourself” argument. But if anyone was thinking of doing so – they need to consider how someone who has views on (say) policing, local politics, national politics and EU politics is supposed to get elected to half a dozen different offices to do half a dozen different jobs…

  2. Blogger – I understand the point you are making but when political parties choose to not stand a candidate they frequently get residents complaining to them they they are unable to cast their vote for their candidate/ party of choice. It can be seen as a cynical attempt to stop another party from winning the election rather than actively going out and campaiging for the policies and principles that brought us (well some of us) into party politics in the first place.

  3. Surely this Police Commissioner thingy job is right down there in the cesspit with Directly Elected Mayors! Someone give me a reason not to think this is the case….

  4. I would invite Paul Perrin to get in touch to see if some of our views coincide, that way he can at least narrow down his choices still further. For Daniel I suggest he does what political parties constantly tell us they do which is to listen to the views, not of their members but of those on the doorstep. Give them a straight choice – Conservative; Daniels party which won’t win; Independent (clearly I hope my name will be the name used). You will be surprised at the numbers who would rather that your party makes a principled stand and vote for an Independent. This is not a normal election, policing as Paul expresses so clearly is not the same as local or national government.
    Valerie, this is far from a great policy, but it has many strengths. It enables some of the issues that Daniel has raised to be debated. It also allows a greater sense of linkage to be made between the police, the courts, probation and the prisons. It is also well designed from the point of view of bringing crime prevention into the foreground. I see that as a reason for standing. If that puts me in a cess pit, I will certainly try to keep the pit clean whilst I am in it (assuming you and Paul will vote for me – maybe even Daniel?)

    • My (very limited) understanding is that the commissioner only really has the power to hire/fire the chief police officer – so while the chief police officer actually runs the force the commissioner gets to choose who they consider ‘the right person’ for that job.

      It is assumed that party candidate will implement party policy (ultimately what ever cameron, clegg, milliband feel like at the time).

      So a party candidate will make police forces accountable to a remote party leader – this has the disadvantage that it achieves almost nothing, but has the advantage that the candidate has been vetted in some way so won’t be a complete nutter.

      I can broadly guess what a party candidate would do – all will want more CCTV, squeeze out small traders, more speed cameras, lower speed limits, higher priced alcohol, plant bogus stories about even looking at counterfeit goods making you turn to stone on the spot. Then the lefties will want to protect travellers and protesters, while the right will want to attack travellers and protesters.

      But an independent – do you have your own agenda? Or will you be consulting the public? if your own agenda, then what is it? If consulting then who with and how? Either way, without a party, how will you be held to it?

      As with my GP – I probably deal with the police less than once a year (and am usually unimpressed) – so the main impact of the police on me is the bill – how much do you plan to save me?

      • Hi Paul, the answer is a bit of both – I do have some ideas or at least some themes and issues which I intend to focus on between now and the high Summer. They are featured on my website. During the Summer I will assemble my manifesto and over the next few months there is an opportunity to hear from people and take their aspirations or challenges into account. Put simply I intend to use any and every opportunity to speak and listen (hopefully in a ratio of 1:2 as per mouth and ears). At present my diary is reasonably free so if you have any suggestions let me know.

        In terms of the powers they do go much further than backing or sacking the Chief Constable although some commentators have reduced it to that. Again my website does contain the information.

        In terms of money, too soon to say, but the current police authority have agreed to a precept this year which almost certainly will lead to an increase next year. I don’t believe we should spend more money on policing than we need, but I do believe that investing in preventative activities is much more cost effective in the long run. As the adage goes, prevention is more effective than a cure.

        Finally in terms of accountability, I won’t have a part whip or membership to challenge my actions, there are some statutory checks and balances and then there is an opportunity to continue the dialogue which we are beginning here and I have begun in other places.

  5. If my information is correct, these elections will be held under the supplementary vote – ie, voters will have a first and second choice. This could make the election slightly less of a Tory shoo-in.

    Still, what a waste of time. Elections for a post for which there is no public demand in November – any bets on turnout? 15%? Less?

    Also, and despite the SV system, the low turnout is likely to promote the election of a few out-and-out nutcases – football mascots and the like. And promote the celebritising of politics even further. How depressing is that?

    On the bright side, it ought to draw attention to cuts in frontline policing and make the government look daft and disingenuous. Labour would have been well advised to stay out of it. Now, as on so much else, they are going to be heavily compromised.

  6. I made a comment earlier that has disappeared, strangely – I hope not moderated, as it was fairly inoffensive, or so I thought.

    Gist of it was, that the commissioner elections will be held under the supplementary vote – odd, given that the Tories gave us to understand last year that first-past-the-post was the closest thing to electoral perfection this side of heaven, but there you go.

    Anyway, the fact that people have a first and second preference *might* mean that the Sussex election is slightly less of a shoo-in for the Tories.

    As the elections are in November and no-one is clamouring for this, I predict a turnout of less than 15%. Not sure why Labour didn’t stick with what appeared to be their original inclination and leave this expensive waste of time well alone.

  7. for people who opposed the creation of a position then the debate on if to stand or not is often a tough one. however we need to make this a side debate. we need to persuade whatever governement comes after this to abolish these posts. policing is a contentious issue one person is never going to represent all views however imperfect police authoritys are at least they have more than one perspective on them.

    • Hi James
      I think it is clear that catastrophe notwithstanding, that the PCC role is with us for two terms. Assuming the next election is in 2015, the time it would take for the legislation to remove the posts means that the 2016 election of PCCs will follow as night and day. However beyond that there is much to play for. Those of us who are interested in the nature of police governance should therefore be considering what we think should replace PCCs so we are well placed to influence the outcome.

      That said I hope that I can gain your votes and see some positive benefits from the PCC structure.

  8. You can have a laugh if you think I am campaigning with the Lib Dems.

  9. This election provides an opportunity for a vigorous debate on what should be the role of a Police Commissioner. Candidates should so frame the debate that whoever wins the election has had to set out a clear programme, not just arbitrary views as Paul Perrin fears. Valerie Paynter might be reassured if there were a candidate who raised issues such as police attitudes to violence towards women as ‘domestic’. I can see why ian Chisnall might like a straight Tory v Indie fight, but I am with Daniel Yates on campaigning on policies and principles. Clive is right about the vote not being a Tory shoo-in, and hopefully he is wrong about the low turnout – good candidates and a decent campaign may yet produce a surprising result. And on James’ point, a good Police Commissioner will be one who gets out and listens to all the views. We can make that happen if we ensure that the election has plenty of opportunities to make the candidates listen to the voters – good old-fashioned hustings.

    • I am with Chris in that this campaign needs to be about policies and can assure you that by the time the campaign begins I will have a manifesto with policies. I have no control over any parties but believe that policing and party politics should be seperated and instead we do need to focus on qualities for our future Police Commissioner and as you have stated, his or her policies.

      On the issue of the candidates listening to the voters – my view is that by September when the campaign proper begins, this listening time will be hard to create. The listening time for me began last October and now I have launched my campaign is public. A hustings meeting offers little opportunity for the candidates to listen, mostly for them to speak. What about contacting me now and inviting me to listen and speak to you and colleagues. As time goes on my diary will be full, but at present I have turned down no opportunities to attend any events!

  10. The post of Police Commissioner will be the greatest political blunder since the Poll Tax. Any sensible person would realise that electing any one inexperienced with the police and the public to such an important post is a recipe for disaster. So far I have yet to be convinced that applicants are interested in anything other than the £85,000 pa of tax pers money.While the idea of a Commissioner is good idea that person should be someone like, for example, a magistrate. This is similar to the system that operates in France.

    • Hi to Michael and anyone else who shares his views. I am keen to meet with anyone in Sussex who has an open mind regarding my experience in working (albeit at arms length) with the police and the public. The level of pay had not been determined when I decided to stand. Michael – you and I have corresponded on the role and as I have already made clear, I would be delighted to meet with you. As far as Magistrates are concerned, some would be well placed to carry out this role and some would not be. However the fact that I have never been a JP I believe my own experience is at least as relevant.

  11. Hi! Ian. I live in hope that a knight in shining armour who is aware of the way people have suffered under a corrupt police force will stand for Commissioner and sort the problem out. Regards Michael

  12. Councillor Jones aiming to be Police Commissioner saves Police Chief Graham Bartletts job. This is the man who backed his police officers when they fabricated statements to try to convict an innocent and vulnerable 58 year old musician.. See ‘Brighton Scandal’.

  13. David Neilson furious at police corruption and totally opposed to anyone with links to the much despised Sussex Police Authority has
    said he will stand for Commissioner.

    • Just to say I have never met either Matt nor David. Like them I have no links to the existing Police Authority and whatever Matts views on Police Corruption his website includes a direct rip off of my campaign logo at the bottom of his homepage. I hope his desire to sort out corruption will lead to some form of self assessment.

  14. Matt Taylor to stand as a Police Commissioner who intends to sort out police corruption. He is totally opposed to anyone with links to the Sussex Police Authority who covered up corruption.

  15. Brighton Scandal will decide nearer the election on who to recommend
    as Sussexs first Police Commissioner. High on our list will be the intention of candidate to tackle Graham Bartlett and his gang.

  16. Ian Chisnall rejects the idea that any part of Sussex Police is riddled with corruption. We all like to think the best of people however I draw the line at Brighton Police Officers using the vulnerable to gain a award. Ian is well aware of the evidence on ‘Brighton Scandal’ and still believes the police are innocent. Ian is a well meaning man who no doubt is a great Pastor. However he is out of touch with reality and should withdraw his nomination for Commissioner.

  17. IAN CHISNALL commenting on ‘Brighton Scandal’ (google.)
    ‘evidence needs to be tested and I have not yet seen very much evidence’.

  18. Hi! Ian. Now that we have met, at your request, and provided the evidence of police criminal actions, (see ‘Brighton Scandal’) how do you intend to deal with Police Chief Graham Bartlett and his Officers if you are elected. Regards Michael.

  19. Hi! Ian. Still awaiting a reply to the above comment, or must the public remain at risk from fabricated police evidence.

  20. Hi Michael, I am conscious that we have debated this in a number of places, my apologies for not tidying up the loose end here. As you know I accept that the case against Alex represented a failure by the combined agencies of Sussex Police and the mental health services that should have been caring for him. This has been acknowledged at the highest level within Sussex Police as evidenced by their decision to remove any reference of the incidents against Alex’ name and clear the file in that sense. I have spoken to Graham Bartlett who would be happy to meet with you (and I know that at present you don’t wish to meet with him). I believe that this series of errors and failures to communicate represent practice that would not be repeated and in that sense do not represent a systemic failure. However I appreciate that this is of little personal satisfaction for you and the family. I would be happy to meet with you at any time and assure you of my best wishes.
    Ian

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