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Gareth Shanks (Yorkshire Young Independence Regional Secretary) presents his take on the forthcoming Police Crime Commissioner Elections.

I’m no fan of how the Government is running the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections: high deposits which lock out smaller parties, an expensive not to mention at times wasteful campaign, and a projected turnout of just 18.5% – to put that into context, my local ward election attracted 29.05% turnout. This does not bode well for the Conservative Party which has traditionally been seen as ‘tough on crime’.

However, the idea of electing my Police Commissioner is an interesting one and a notion I support. Policing is a pressing issue in every community; regardless of how poorly organized the elections are, they present a chance for some unique changes in policing in the UK.

One of the benefits of the PCC elections is that one can pick which types of crimes are prioritised by their local force, no longer (I add a very generous ‘hopefully’ in here) will crime targets be dictated by Whitehall. The post also adds a slightly increased sense of localism: different areas, rural or urban, will have very different policing needs, so it is a chance to elect someone who understands one’s local area. Worried about anti-social behaviour? Vote for a candidate tough on anti-social behaviour – if you like to keep cannabis for personal use, vote for the ‘soft on drugs’ candidate.

It is likely only a small percentage of people are able to name who is in charge of their Local Education Authority, or their local NHS health board. The PCC elections present a public face to policing in your area, instead of being run by anonymous and arguably unaccountable police force chiefs.

With the advent of this election I believe it will bring more scrutiny to the top job.  Other parties and journalists looking to smear their opponents will hopefully allow for a more transparent police force, something I believe has been needed for a long time. The actions of a very small number of police officers  has led to a skewed perception of policeman as being needlessly aggressive against protesters, for instance (that the protesters normally throw bricks and abuse at the police first is often omitted). Nevertheless, anything that improves the transparency of the police force is surely a good thing.

The single most important matter heralded by these PCC elections is that elected PCCs are just that: elected. They are accountable to the electorate; if crime goes up, don’t re-elect them, if they backtrack on promises, don’t re-elect them, if they are found dressed in a Nazi uniform in a compromising position with some livestock, don’t re-elect them – although that may increase popularity in some areas.

Gareth Shanks

  • Young Independence Yorkshire Secretary
  • @garethshanks

Remember that The Panopticon is always happy to consider publishing articles written by its readers. Email: thepanopticonblog@gmail.com

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