Web Analytics Trust People (once an Englishman in Philly): Elected Police Part 3: How would it work?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Elected Police Part 3: How would it work?

Currently the tripartite structure of the police isn't delivering quality or accountability as it should. Police authorities, made up as they are in such an impenetrable manner, are distant and discordant with the public and the public's wishes. The public being exactly who they should be serving.

Instead these authorities should be scrapped. They would be replaced by a single person who should be directly elected by the people in each of the 43 police force areas in Britain. You could name this position what you will. They could be Chairmen, or we could revive the ancient position of Sheriff and turn it into a real position rather than a relic used for patronage (so olong as connotations with the wild west are not too great!). In London, where the police force is congruous with the constituency of a directly-elected Mayor, then this role should come within his or her remit. Mayor Livingstone should be given real powers to help focus the police on Londoners' priorities and Londoners should be able to make him account for what they do.

But what matters more than the name, at least from a practical viewpoint if not a political one, is what they would do.

They would hire and fire Chief Constables. They would control their own budgets and set their own targets, peeling back the emasculation of police authorities which has been seen since the Police and Magistrates Court Act 1994 and the Police Act 1996. They would take on the limited existing powers of police authorities. They would make their own Police Plans to focus implementation of the budget, making reforms such as those which helped transform New York's policing possible. There the Mayor, is responsible for the Police Commissioner, who was then Bill Bratton who was made to hold local commanders accountable for the crime rates in their precincts on a weekly basis. Law enforcement in the city was transformed. We'll come back to the precise detail of how New York became more accountable, and how this change could help something similar here, in due course. Most important is this principle: those elected to these posts would be directly accountable to the public for how their police force performs. Democratic accountability will connect the public with the police as the public hold them to account for their performance and offer an incentive to raise standards, and take us back to Peel's guiding principle of policing.


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