Retirement Plan for Politicians set to Destroy the Police Service
The problem is not the principle of public accountability through elected politicians; the problem is the interference with operational policing that some of these people believe will be their right once in post.
Lord Prescott makes no bones about it, if he is elected as the new Commissioner for Hull he will interfere with operational policing as he sees fit.
He is quoted as saying: “The police always argue that many things they do are a matter of operations and politicians should not be involved. Well, I’m afraid I have a big argument with that.”
It is very significant that the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers Sir Hugh Orde, has said that many chief constables – including himself - would resign if put under direct political control.
Without serious change in Government thinking on how they will preserve operational independence the police service as we know it is gone forever. No longer will we adhere to founding principles of Sir Robert Peel, who enacted and introduced the foundations of the modern Police Service. Principles based on service delivered to all levels of the community and on social good governance. Principle that still hold true today.
The Peelian notion most often quoted is for the police to "… seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing". This is the basis upon which the police service has remained operationally separate from the politicians.
Politicians, either as private individuals or public figures, can make bad decisions, can be subject of criminal actions or be involved in illegal acts which require police intervention. We have seen this on numerous occasions from misuse of parliamentary expenses to the recent allegations of perverting the course of justice against Chris Huhne a serving cabinet minister. These are matters which require intervention with operational distance from the influence of politicians, politicians with the potential for the same human failing and frailties as any individual.
During my police career I saw numerous first hand examples of local politicians attempting to have an influence operational policing for their own personal reasons. Councillors insisting that the minor offence that affected them take priority over other policing matters. The Police Authority Chairman who took exception a circus legally setting up near his home and successful insisted that this non-police matter be investigated by a Police Inspector. Minor things you might think and they remained minor only because the politicians had no functional control of operational policing.
The Commissioners job is clearly seen as having a good deal of gravity, kudos and as being a very power position with the likes of John Prescott, the most high profile so far, putting themselves up as candidates. These people wouldn’t usually put themselves forward for local political positions which would be seen as a step of two down from their previous jobs. The Police and Crime Commissioner’s job, albeit a very local positions, is seen as very different. It has potentially to propel them back into the limelight that many still crave and is very well paid. The original idea that anyone could be elected is quickly being overturned by the notion that candidates will need the support of one or other of our political parties to be successful. Electioneering is an expensive exercise so to be elected you need to have a personal fortune or be politically connected.
If the government don’t recognise that this has grave consequences for the way in which the police service delivers to the public then they no longer deserve the support of the public that they will ultimately fail.
We will reverse on of the underpinning Peelian principles to read;
‘The Police must seek and preserve public favour not by demonstrating absolute impartial service to law but by constantly catering to public opinion’