It should be taken as a given that the Police and Crime Commissioners will have a role in championing the police – seeking to boost their morale and to motivate the public to do more to help the police. However, these commissioners will also represent the public. They should not be spokesmen or shop stewards for the police. As Sam Chapman points out they are not there "to be at an awards ceremony holding a golden envelope."
So for someone to be relevant as a commissioner it is not enough for them to make bland comments about how wonderful the police are. They need to show that they believe they police are not doing as well as they could or should and that, as commissioner, they will ensure that the right priorities are pursued – which means the priorities of the public.
It means ensuring the police are operating at maximum effectiveness as a crime fighting force – not being risk averse, cowed by political correctness, or crippled by inertia. A commissioner should hold the police to account, ensuring they are not operating according to their own convenience rather than the needs of those they serve. They should challenge their local team as to why a successful innovation applied elsewhere can not be introduced in their own force.
In other words good commissioners should be reformers – not apologists for vested interests and the status quo.
But are reformers being selected as Conservative candidates? Peter Walker has missed out in North Yorkshire. Cllr David Burbage has missed out in Thames Valley. Then we have had the discouraging selection of Michael Mates for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Nobody will expect much reforming zeal from Mr Mates.
According to Top of the Cops, other candidates chosen include:
- Simon Spencer for Derbyshire,
- Nick King for Dorset,
- Matthew Grove for Humberside,
- Phil Butler for Northumbria,
- Julia Mulligan for North Yorkshire,
- Anthony Stansfeld for Thames Valley and
- Geraldine Carter for West Yorkshire.
I also understand that we have for:
- Cllr Ken Maddock for Avon and Somerset.
- Nicholas Alston for Essex.
- Cllr Craig Mackinlay for Kent.
- Sir Clive Loader for Leicestershire.
- Adam Simmonds for Northamptonshire.
- Philip Butler for Northumbria.
- Fraser Pithie for Warwickshire.
- Adrian Blackshaw for West Mercia.
Congratulations to all of them. I hope they will recognise that the considerable public dissatisfaction with the police reflects the need for the police to do better, and that it is their job to ensure that they do so. If they conclude that these public concerns are just a communications problem, and that all that is needed is for them to help the police with PR, then an opportunity is being wasted.
An issue that will undoubtedly covered in more detail when we have full results of turnout and candidates in each selection is that in a number of safe Tory areas – or at least areas with a firm track record of good local Tory activism – commisioner selections failed to attract the interest of more than a token number of candidates, and in some cases, the turnout was reportedly far below what one might expect for such an important post covering so many people.