Policing oversight has been, for over a century, through a form of ‘Watch Committee’, which more recently has known as a Police Authority. Membership of the Police Authority is recruited from elected county councillors, magistrates and some independent people. This system of policing oversight is set for significant change with the replacement of the Police Authority by an elected Police and Crime Commissioner [PCC].
This week I attended the hustings at the Camberley Working Men’s Club for the election of a PCC for Surrey. The organisers, Politicos, a Surrey Heath non-party political discussion group, must be warmly thanked for getting the candidates together at a hustings event, and with an excellent moderator in Sylvia Heal, a past Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.
I’m thoroughly in favour of an elected PCC. It’ll bring transparency into police oversight and policy direction. I listened to Bill Bratton, a respected American equivalent of a PCC, interviewed on Radio about the change. His view was not to expect immediate results, and to give the new approach time to bring results. But, that improvements will come.
After hearing six candidates expound their views on how they would improve policing in Surrey, I’m even more convinced that having democratically elected PCC’s is a sound policy to improve policing for the benefit of Surrey residents. You can see the candidates HERE.
I guess I should’ve realised that the role of PCC would attract individuals with a strong policing background. And so it has, with Kevin Hurley, and Robert Shatwell both having been serving police officers. While Peter Williams, was the chairman of the Surrey Police Authority for the last four years. I’m not convinced that having retired police officers overseeing police is what this new process is about. While some may bemoan the so-called politicisation of the role, it is about individuals who are comfortable and practised at listening to residents, and resolving their concerns. The remaining three candidates are supported by political parties: Conservative – Julie Iles, Labour – Robert Evans: and Liberal Democrat – Nick O’Shea.
Without question the clear winner in the hustings debate, my opinion of course, was Julie Iles. Each answer to a question was supported with the explanation of an appropriate policy, not always the case with other candidates. Her experience is the most relevant, magistrate, youth justice adviser, and Crimestoppers youth leader.
Unlike Ian Blair, past Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who doesn’t want you to vote, I implore you to vote. While not perfect, the new system of Police and Crime Commissioners connects residents to policing in a way that overcomes police bureaucracy and inertia. Remember, you’re choosing to give a candidate a mandate. For me, Julie Iles platform is the most compelling.