Steve takes fight against costly and distracting elected police commissioners to bill committee

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Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe is continuing to fight against the costly introduction of elected police commissioners in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Committee in Parliament.
 
Steve volunteered for the committee specifically to keep up the pressure on the Government to jettison this unpopular policy.
 
The committee will debate the bill over a period of several weeks and Steve plans to raise the following issues.
 
An unwanted distraction from real policing
The police are already having to cope with ferocious cuts to their budgets. The loss of thousands of police officers will be difficult for many forces and the last thing that they need is to have to worry about how they will work with an entirely new structure built around an elected police commissioner. Additionally, elected police commissioners will be introduced in 2012 – the year of the Olympics. Whilst the Olympics will undoubtedly be good for GB PLC it is undeniable that there are associated risks with holding the games. 2012 will also be the year when the most severe cut backs will have be made in local police budgets (due to the way the cuts are being imposed by the Tory led Government).
 
A costly mistake
It is estimated that this risky political experiment will cost £100 million – that’s enough to pay for 600 extra police officers.
 
An untested experiment
The Tories have failed to produce evidence to substantiate their claim that elected police commissioners will make policing more accountable. In fact common sense would suggest that residents will have more chance of influencing their local police team at a neighbourhood tasking meeting than the elected police commissioner. In the case of the West Midlands, the commissioner will be representing some 2 million more people than the local police team.
 
A politicising force in policing
There is also a real risk that an elected police commissioner will be more likely to determine policy by what is popular rather than what is required. For example, domestic violence does not figure as highly in police statistics and is largely a hidden crime. The work that the police do to deal with this type of crime is also low key and discreet. There is a risk that these resources will be diverted to areas which are more clearly visible to the public.
In addition, there is a very real risk that these elections could be seem is relatively unimportant. Low turnouts and protest voting always benefit extremist parties like the BNP. A BNP elected commissioner would have to comply with equalities legislation but could take local policing in a direction of travel which evidence based policing would not. Unlike Westminster politicians there will be no power of recall for elected police commissioners.
 
Impractical
The first elected commissioners will quite simply implement the policy and budgets set by the previous police authority. What will happen if an elected commissioner disagrees with the policies of its predecessor? There is no mechanism in the bill to deal with this conflict.
Furthermore the Tory led Government has already said there will still be Police and Crime Panels made up of nominated councillors which is exactly what the current Police Authorities are. It seems that the Government has simply created a new tier which takes some of the powers of the current police authority.
Steve said: “An untried, untested, major decision on policing is being made on the hoof. The previous system was working. Crime was falling. Police numbers were on the up. Neighbourhood policing methods were helping to connect the police with their communities.  We would all be better off if the Tories would jettison this risky political experiment and simply plough the money back into neighbourhood policing.”
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