written by The Police Debating Directive
on the 20th
June 2012 at 6:24 - Posted in Police Blog
Yesterday an event as held in central London, in a plush venue where even the seats had charging sockets; at least that is, according to one attendee.
It is not in the least unusual for events to take place; nor for speakers to include ministers, corporations or think-tankers. Neither is it unusual for media representatives to attend such well endowed venues.
What was unusual, was that the event was a first real outing for Police and Crime Commissioners; the trumpeted saviours of accountability in policing.
The particularly unusual thing was the fact that the truth began to out, and due to Social Media; it began to out in real time.
The establishment of 'PCCs' is now law, so can only be stopped by an Act of Parliament and, previously, Chief Officers at their recent annual conference were quoted as saying "it was time to SUMO". To borrow from my other blog; this did not mean wrestle with the issue but, rather:
Shut Up, Move On.
As a Police Officer I can say, without fear of a peer correcting me, that if I walked away from something or blindly accepted it; I wouldn't be doing my duty properly. At the time Chiefs roared SUMO; PCCs lacked definition.
Yesterday definition is what we got. That recent SUMO roar can only be described, in light of this refinement, as having been premature, verbal ejaculation.
Firstly, at a time of growing public concern over politics and influence, PCCs result in the creation of another layer of political roles; salaries and pensions. This time directly in charge of how your are kept safe in your bed.
Imagine if you disagree with the policies but are in the 'perceived problematic minority': how does the potential implication of that sit? Comfortably?
I doubt it very much.
Secondly, at a time of unprecedented austerity, when normal people like us are already struggling; when the police service is facing a reduction in budget of 1/5th already, despite spelling out how dangerous this is: it has been seen appropriate to introduce a spend of £75 million on this process.
Thirdly, several more worrying facts began to emerge; amongst a backdrop of laughter at the public, that this system is lauded to be in the best interests of. A normal member of the public, a good Christian, was there and walked out because of the offence this mockery caused.
The first real worry came from the revelation that it is seen as unlikely that independent candidates would succeed; so the positions would primarily land in the hands of the main political parties; this was neither surprising nor unexpected. The surprise came in the fact that parties would be able to control PCCs or remove their support if they didn't like the way things were going.
This by default has the effect of creating a miniature, Home Office type influence, over local policing; even if the party in question is out of central power.
And what if the neighbouring forces are different parties and the party mandate is confrontational or antagonistic?
Does mutual assistance grind to a halt, become a battle ground? Crime and Justice Minister, Nick Herbert let his mask slip here, saying "I promised not to be partisan, but..."
Thus proving it is impossible to keep politics out of politics.
The issue of low public turnout was raised as a concern; because a low turnout would mean the person charged with keeping you safe, in your bed had no real mandate to do so. It was vaguely stated that the minimum turnout "should be like local elections".
I've said it before and will again now; policing is for everyone, equally and without exception. When only a third of the public speak for all, it is unavoidable that people will suffer. In Westminster this seems to neither understood, nor cared about.
I noticed the issue of electoral fraud was not raised; when clearly it should have been.
The implications of this are huge and you have to ask; why create a local power retention mechanism unless you are convinced you won't have it centrally for long? Food for thought indeed.
Then, the discussion over the Home Secretary's much repeated 'chiefs will be operationally independent'. It seems they will not; the common theme was that PCCs would get straight into tinkering with as much as possible; on the delivery side. Again, my three year old could have seen that coming.
Arising from this comes the true horror.
The corporate sponsor of the event, consultancy Deloitte, along with others, made clear that the primary focus of PCCs would be financial.
No, not public safety. Money.
I hasten to add, that for experts in efficiency and finance; I'm massively surprised they didn't say: "are you sure spending £75 million on this is a good idea in the current climate"
Now, why would said consultancy sponsor an event; with access to people eager to tinker and reform? What could they possibly gain?
These days I look at Leveson as the tip of the influence iceberg.
Back to the event; in waded G4S and others; clamouring to know 'what could not be privatised'. All the while they rubbed their hands at what could.
Herbert's masked slipped completely after this and we got a real glimpse of what's coming.
Where a force refuses to 'partner' with a private provider (let's call it privatisation shall we) the implication was that the force would have less officers. Now, I'm sure he meant to say "because they will have to do x, y and z too".
Unfortunately what came out was:
"if you vote John Prescott (who has ruled out privatisation if elected) you will get less officers". It almost sounded like some form of threat to the budget precept.
I don't accept threats, veiled or not.
He, Nick Herbert, also blathered about PCCs being "game changing".
I believe this tells us everything we need to know about the Crime and Justice Minister.
A) he thinks policing is a game; not life, death and public safety;
B) that the real agenda here is to exert political agenda, to secure political longevity and control.
The latter will be openly used as leverage to push privatisation (still not a rose, even by any other name) into policing; even if the party pushing it comes to lose power nationally.
This is the cold, stark, horrifying truth.
I know what PCCs are for; what they have been all along. A back up mechanism, a back door way to secure the private future for those with vested interests.
I know that this has been years in the making; that a lot of 'corporate support' has been given and, how this has been done. Just take one look at the #AntiWinsorReport.
Because I know this, I cannot and will not 'Shut Up and Move On':
Because I'm a police officer and because I have a duty to protect the public, even from politicians if needs be.
I am quite prepared to wrestle.