Saturday, 14 January 2012

Police Commissioners - The Way Forward

An excellent non partisan article by Elfyn Llwyd MP on Police Commissioners where he invites 'like minded people' who have an interest in standing for Police Commissioners to get in touch. This is what Plaid Cymru are all about; putting the people of Wales before narrow political interests

Later this year, in November 2012, there will be the first ever elections for Police and Crime Commissioners for the four police forces in Wales.

Plaid Cymru have opposed the introduction of these elected police and crime commissioners on the grounds that this involves a probable politicisation of policing and that is not a good use of policing resources at a time of public sector cuts.

At present, policing is carried out under the supervision of Police Authorities who include a range of local councillors nominated by their local authority and also members of the public.

These powers would allow policing priorities to be determined by a single elected commissioner, according to their wishes and manifesto, rather than these priorities being determined through consensus across the political spectrum and with more than significant input from the public members of the authority.

We believe that this is a retrograde step for policing as politicisation may lead to one viewpoint being prioritised over another and the police forces themselves no longer being considered neutral in how they treat crimes.

This could damage the hard-won trust and faith in our effective and excellent police forces in Wales. Furthermore, policing has to be by consent woe betide us if that consent is eroded.

During the debates on the introduction of these commissioners, the negative attitude of the UK Government towards Wales has once again been illustrated.

As local democracy is in the hands of the National Assembly, the UK Government needed our agreement for the re-forming of police authorities into what are to be known as Police and Crime Panels to supervise the work of the commissioner.

When the National Assembly voted not to give them that authority to change the rules in Wales, they decided that, rather than listening to our democratically elected Welsh government and take part in fruitful negotiations, they would come through the back door.

In England, local authorities will decide their members on police and crime panels while in Wales they will be determined by the Home Secretary in London.

This cannot be right, as it is unwelcome interference in Wales.

However, despite our opposition, and the opposition of the National Assembly for Wales, these elections will take place.

Although we are not in agreement with the roles, it is important that strong, competent candidates are in place to fight these elections on a platform which is beneficial for Wales.

Extremist politicians who might mis-use the powers of this role must be defeated. Those who would mis-use the powers of the police force must be prevented from getting their hands on the levers of power.

Plaid Cymru believe that policing, alongside the rest of the justice and home affairs portfolios, should be devolved to the National Assembly.

This is the natural home for powers in Wales, especially when linked with the notions of social and restorative justice which run so deeply through our communities.

We propose, instead of politicising the police in the way that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat have so damagingly suggested, that a more consensual approach could help ensure that our four Welsh police forces are run in best interests of our nation.

This alternative approach could see strong candidates put themselves forward, representing the ethos of Welsh communities and their faith in a balanced, diverse, proactive police force in all four police authority areas, with support across parties and from those of no party.

If policing, crime and justice were devolved then we would have the power to determine our own policies in these areas – and develop Welsh solutions for Welsh problems.

We would have a criminal justice system which responds to Welsh needs, not that of knee-jerk responses to tabloid headlines.

Plaid Cymru have several criteria for what would make a good police commissioner in Wales. They should be people who support Welsh control of the criminal justice system from start to finish, should put the welfare of the wider community first and should be against the politicisation of the police force.

We would welcome making contact with any candidate who meets these criteria and wants to stand for election as police and crime commissioners as an independent, non-partisan candidate.

If four such candidates can be found around Wales, one for each police force area, then Plaid Cymru would support these candidates.

If, however, such candidates did not come forward, then we will put forward our own candidate so that electors would have the opportunity to support the above aims that must be represented on the ballot paper.

We therefore invite members of the public who support our aims on policing to come forward and help ensure effective and improved policing for our communities.


Frank H Little said...

Where have Liberal Democrats politicised the police, apart from our objections to imposing commissioners??

Mike Cross said...

I have spent the last 8 years campaigning for REAL policing in North Wales via my pressure group People for Proper Policing (just google last two words for our No.1 website) Our core group members have spent 1000s of hours writing and talking to Politicians, the Press and the Police and Police Authority. We have attended 100s of PA amd NWPF meetings and have promoted Crime prevention via community policing, carried out our own public opinion surveys and worked with our local officers to sort out a range of issues. The old system failed for obvious reasons and this one will also if it is allowed to by the public and politicians. Electing ex police Officers, PA members or Politicians will ensure it's failure. We need managers from the real world of business with proven track records in achievements and man management. The job description should be written and circualted via the press. The organisation headed by the commissioners must be clearly defined and the staff recruited likewise from the same backgrounds.

Anonymous said...

Might it be because the Lib Dems are in Govt and helped introduce the Tory measure? Just a thought

Richard Hibbs said...

OK so I'm coming forward to support your policing aims as follows:

1. I am not and never have been a member of any political party

2. I applaud the vision for cross-party support for a non-party candidate, it's encouraging to see a nationalist party seriously considering this option - a superb example of 'Idealpolitik'

3. I competely agree with the decision made by parties who opposed the introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners not to contest the elections on November 15th in Wales - this is a highly principled position and I hope others will follow in due course.

4. I propose that suitably qualified independents are best-placed to build cross-party support in North Wales, and an excellent antidote both to "extremism" and to further politicisation of the police

4. I suggest that any parties that nevertheless feel obliged to go through a conventional candidate selection process for democratic reasons should now pause and adopt 'open' primaries instead.

5. I am willing to contest any open primaries that are held in North Wales as an independent - check me out on the BBC website. QED

Any independent wishing to persuade political parties not to field candidates will no doubt have their conflict of interest pointed out to them (thank you Arfon!). I prefer to see it as a confluence of interest rather than a conflict - can we perhaps focus on their qualifications instead?

At this stage of the campaign, electoral credibility as an independent depends crucially on not getting too close to any one source of potential support. So in response to the criteria you have very helpfully set out, I can only promise qualified support as follows:

1. Welsh control of the criminal justice system from start to finish - I have found it helpful to think of elected Police Commissioners as a form of accelerated devolution of police accountability to North Wales, rather than to a remote assembly in Cardiff. I also believe that the functions of the Youth Justice Board in Wales could in due course be devolved to Police Commissioners, along with responsibilty for commissioning 'corrections' more generally on behalf of the community.

2. welfare of the community - I am 100% in favour of the prevention, restoration & (re-)integration agenda proposed by the Independent Commission on Youth Crime and Antisocial Behaviour in 2010

3. politicisation of the police - in my view the police are quite politicised enough already, thank you very much. What we must avoid now is the party-politicisation of police priorities.

Let's talk about it on 30 January!

Richard Hibbs (Promoter & chair) 'Will elected Police Commissioners make a difference?'