Police Elections Part 1: understanding the current system
Current problems with crime centre around the engagement, or rather disengagement, of growing numbers of people with society. The causes of this are two-fold. Firstly, we have seen a decline in effective enforcement of the law by law enforcement bodies. Secondly, we have witnessed a breakdown of families, geographical communities and the self-policing that flows from these and helps ensure "decent" behaviour.
These two are combined, and combine, to cause the problems we face today. In fact they're inextricably linked. With weaker policing communities are damaged. With weaker, damaged communities, the role of the police becomes wider, but also deeper as damaged, weak communities are harder to police. Recognition of this comes from the founding father of British policing. In founding the Metropolitan Police, in 1829, Sir Robert Peel said "Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police." Are the police the public, and the public the police today? Nobody can honestly answer that, yes.
In 1964 a tripartite structure for the police force was drawn up. The three columns which held up the police portico were the Home Secretary, the Chief Constable and the "Local Police Authority". 1964, mind, was arguably the high water mark of Butskellism, the post-war entrenchment of apparently undeniable values in systems to serve the British public. So, how did this structure envisage the police working?
The home secretary has the overall responsibility for the police force, but his role is meant solely as supervisor and co-ordinator of the force. The 'direction and control' of each regional force falls to the chief constables, with the police authorities overseeing their work to ensure 'adequate and efficient' work is carried out by all police forces. The establishment consensus is that the three-way system has been effectively implemented. The theory is it avoids political interference in policing, and doesn't give any single organisation, or individual, power over the activities or functions of the police force.