“Pay Attention at The Back of The Class!”
During the General Election campaign of 2010, both the Conservatives & the Lib Dems outlined plans in their manifestos to either replace or reform the existing police authorities. The reason for this was apparently the concerns being raised about the perceived lack of accountability of the police authorities to the communities they served.
Following the election and formation of the coalition, both parties stated:
- We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives.
Later that year, the Government published “Policing in the 21st Century”, a consultation on the Government’s vision for policing, which included the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners.
This was followed by the introduction of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill into Parliament, in December 2010. The Bill received Royal Assent on 15 September 2011, becoming the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners were commissioned by the Home Office to facilitate co-ordination, representation and support for police and crime commissioners and police governance bodies from November 2012. http://www.apccs.police.uk
The first elections for police and crime commissioners were held on 15 November 2012 and were without doubt the most spectacular failure, with only 15.1% of an almost uninterested electorate turning out to vote. The new commissioners took office on 22 November 2012. They replaced the existing police authority framework. The next elections will take place in May 2016 and every four years thereafter.
Keep a note of the date of May 2016. You may want to put it in your diary!
The idea of a Police and Crime Commissioner to oversee policing in an area and have the power to hire and fire a police chief and control police in an area, probably seemed like a jolly good idea in the rarefied halls of Westminster. In the list of “jolly good ideas”, it is probably up there amongst such ideas as “lets go as fast as we can across the iceberg packed Atlantic to win the Blue Ribbon” and “let’s drop nearly all our Airborne troops miles behind enemy lines and we’ll scamper up the only massively fortified road on a sandy topography and relieve them in 24 hours”.
It would be a little strong for us to condemn the whole process out of hand. However, research on the topic would indicate that the police and crime commissioners have been less than a glowing success for a Home Secretary, who seems completely unable to protect the UK’s borders, nor turn around the decline of the police forces/services/things (make your own choice) in England & Wales.
Chief, or rather Queen, amongst the police and crime commissioners who seem to be out of their depth is Ann Barnes, the Police & Crime commissioner for Kent. She first came to public attention, when she appointed the first youth police & crime commissioner, 17-year-old Paris Brown, who held the role for two days before “quitting in the interests of everyone concerned, in particular the young people of Kent”.
The reason for this departure a la a burning comet, was that young Paris was being investigated by Kent police over tweets she posted between the ages of 14 and 16 which could be considered racist and anti-gay. Ann Barnes said it was « a very sad day ». Never a truer word spoken!
Not content with that massive faux pas, it is assumed due to the absence of any form of due diligence or pre-employment screening, which presumably they don’t teach in Teacher Training College, Mrs. Barnes took part in a Channel 4 programme, entitled “Meet The Police Commissioner”. The Channel 4 website describes the programme thus: “This Cutting Edge documentary explores the surreal world of Ann Barnes, Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent”.
This programme is the most spectacular piece of documentary, which combines the very best of a female David Brent straight out of “The Office”, and “W1A”, the comedy follow up to “Twenty Twelve”, in which former Olympic Head of Deliverance Ian Fletcher begins his new job as the BBC’s Head of Values.
The combination of these two personalities mixed with her own patronising and supercilious attitude shows Mrs. Barnes in the most frightening display of somebody completely out of their depth, their comfort zone & knowledge base, trying to manage the impossible in the same way, one assumes, as she probably did as a teacher.
As the Police & Crime Commissioner for Kent, Ann Barnes presides over a budget of £317M, receives a salary of £85K per annum and has no job description. She appeared incapable of spelling her title, when on screen and has a staff of 16 who all have the title of “Manager” and don’t seem overly convinced as to their raison d’etre or their overall objectives. Nobody, it appeared, had responsibility for pre-employment screening or due diligence.
I could dilate at length and in detail about Mrs. Barnes performance and approach to managing Kent police, who it would seem from this programme are clearly doomed. Little wonder the Chief Constable opted for retirement when the opportunity arose.
The faces of the Chief Constable and his officers, as Mrs. Barnes addresses them in presumably the same tome as she addressed year 7, speaks volumes. If you have not seen this programme, then here is the link. If you do nothing else in the next 24 hours, watch this programme all the way to the end. Remember, if you live in Kent, you can apply for this job, which will be up for grabs in May 2016.
I fervently hope that Mrs. Barnes is unique in her role as a Police and Crime Commissioner. She is a classic example of why someone who knows nothing about the unique world of policing, should be given authority over it.
The police operate with the consent of the public whom they protect and prevent from committing crime. Likewise, the police must be accountable for their actions. There must be a sensible way to provide a process of accountability, whilst allowing senior police officers to manage their subordinate officers, prevent crime and arrest offenders, without interference from an individual who neither understands policing nor has ever participated in its unique role.
The role of Police and Crime Commissioners is probably a good idea but needs re thinking. The role should interact and support the police, but leave the police to police and the commissioner to fight the political battles. The role does not work as the total lead and control for a police force/service.
Back to the drawing Board Mrs. May.