Authority calls for pause before “policing is politicised”

Posted on Thursday 28th April 2011 at 8:11 am by SH (Editor)

The debate on introducing directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners moved to the House of Lords yesterday following Lib Dem peer calls for a ‘postponement’ or ‘pilot.’

Members of the Lords debated the Police Reform and Social Responsibiilty Bill and the proposed introduction of a Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) to England and Wales.

Avon and Somerset Police Authority Chair Dr Peter Heffer, who has previously said that we are “sleepwalking into the politicisation of policing,” has welcomed Lib Dem calls for a pause.

Dr Heffer said: “In my view, we need an NHS style pause on this reform, it is far too important an issue too be rushed through at a time of enormous change and upheaval for the police.”

“I have been clear about the risks of introducing an elected Police and Crime Commissioner to Avon and Somerset and would be amazed if the police were not put into the hands of one political person. As I have said before, they are the only likely candidates that have the resources and mechanisms to wage an election campaign. It is a worrying prospect, along with the concentration of power in one person. You do not hear people calling for their local hospitals and local schools to be run by one person so why would you want that for the police?”

“Given the pressure on budgets every penny should be focused on protecting frontline policing not setting up an additional local election and another layer of bureaucracy. We have already seen independent analysis that estimates the cost of introducing Commissioners will be £100million. I say this is the wrong way to be spending public money, especially when police staff, officers and our own communities are facing huge personal and financial uncertainty.

“I encourage their Lordships to seek a pause in these plans. The people should decide if this is what they really want. If it’s right to hold a local referendum before having elected mayors, why not the same for police commissioners, who will have much greater power? Local communities should decide how best their taxes should be spent – frontline police or commissioners.”

The first elections for Police and Crime Commissioners are planned for May 2012.

Source: Avon and Somerset Police Authority

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