I have already voiced my concern about the lack of evidence to support such a whole hearted change in the governance of UK policing. In times of extreme financial constraint it seems less than prudent to be spending excessive amounts of public money on explicit ideological change. There may be a genuine desire to reform policing to meet local, national and international challenges (though I am not convinced that even this level of thinking has taken place); to do so in a manner that lacks fundamental evidence or a clear outline of success factors, almost beggars belief. Yet still government are able to do it.
So if there is such a genuine desire to hear the voice of the people one should be asking government if they are willing to consider an election null and void if the turn-out falls below a certain level. In other words low turnout means the ‘majority’ of voices have NOT been heard! This seems realistic to me: surely there is a level below which governance of such a powerful institution that significantly affects the reputation of a nation is placed in jeopardy by the sheer lack of mandate? Should we be suggesting that a below 30% turnout for the PCC election – has serious short term local impact and significant long term implications for the aims of an advanced democracy?
It is the lack of debate and failure to create real democratic noise around these issues that is so frustrating. In many ways it says much about public apathy and ‘Opposition’ impotence. ‘Oh well its is going to happen anyway’ seems the position of too many people!
However, there is another aspect that really needs our attention and that is the ‘cult of the personality’. Whether it is articles in newspapers or journals (the Economist has just published this week on PCC’s) the focus seems to be increasingly centred on the individual and their political allegiances rather than their specific policies on policing. Some individuals (and I am absolutely certain there are also genuine candidates concerned about policing) are raising their personal profile on the back of policing issues. I may be wrong but I just don’t remember certain high profile politicians and military leaders making policing such a key part of their past political agenda! At no time as the designer of the Strategic Command Course, for example, did I have politicians and leaders from other industries and sectors ask to address the programme because they were so interested in the future of policing and its leadership. I did however, consistently have people from health, from charities, from ethical businesses and those representing the socially deprived making genuine contributions to the criminal justice debate. As some rush to publish the lists of ‘who is standing’ I wonder, in a busy world, how much attention will be paid to the candidates’ policies. These are the policies that like it or not, will have a direct impact on operational policing.
I have a great fear that we are increasingly drifting towards a policing governance system that will simply become another bout of ‘political contesting’ between the main parties. The lack of a level playing field for ‘Independents’ does not strike me as a drive for the voice of the people but a drive for political ownership that will in turn, apparently, represent the voice of the people.