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November 15: A day that will change policing forever

November 15 2012 will be just like any other day in most people’s lives. It’s a Thursday so I will be teaching for much of it.

However, on that day policing in England Wales will fundamentally change and the damage that change will bring will resonate for years to come.


British policing was founded on the principles of Sir Robert Peel who, as Home Secretary, was responsible for the setting up of the first Police Service in London in 1829. These principles, which enshrine the idea that the police are PART of the community and not APART from it, have been refined over the years into the service we see today.


Lord Scarman in his scathing report into the Brixton riots of 1981 reminded us that the police and the community must work together to ensure the best and most peaceful outcomes for our communities.


Lord MacPherson, in his report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, even went as far as to recommend that it become a Ministerial priority that we “increase trust and confidence in policing amongst minority ethnic communities”.


In Cumbria we are fortunate to have, since 1964, a Police Authority to oversee the work of the Constabulary. The members of this authority are drawn from all walks of life and the system is designed to ensure the maximum consensus on delivering a policing service we actually want.


It is because of the work they have done in the past 48 years that we have confidence in the policing we receive. We might not like each and every thing our police officers do but broadly we support them. We have confidence in them.


To now attempt to embody this broad range of views into a politically motivated individual defies any logic.


For a start, each major political party is putting forward a candidate and will, I am sure, be trying to ensure that their supporters go out and vote on the 15th November. If we end up with a Conservative Police Commissioner or a Labour one or a Liberal Democrat one can we be sure that this person will seek to meet the needs and aspirations of every section of our community or can we expect them to toe the party line?


You just have to glance at the proposals of those who have declared their candidacy to be worried. One espouses a zero tolerance approach and I’d bet she doesn’t know what that is or that all the evidence says it cannot be delivered in anything but the very short term and at great expense.


One candidate is determined to keep the policing cost down but, at the same time ensure services are not contracted out to private security firms. Now that will be a juggling act worth seeing.


Another wants to focus resources into crime hot spot areas. For a county such as Cumbria that will mean the only time we see a police officer will be on the telly!


Also, what happens if there is a very small turnout on the 15th – a situation not wholly unlikely – might we end up with a candidate from a minority or extreme party? Where will the confidence in OUR police service be then?


And once the Crime Commissioner is in post, what will the cost be? A salary of at least £65,000 and paying for a Police and Crime panel to oversee the work of the Crime Commissioner will not save one penny and once you add in the election costs each 4 years, the cost actually rises.


I fear for the future of the Police Service I know and respect with the arrival of Crime Commissioners. I can see only political interference in what should be an independent service and I see the eroding of confidence across large swathes of Cumbria.


By Ashley Tiffen
Published: October 10, 2012


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