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Resignation of a Chief Constable - Questions to be asked

May 2, 2012 3:44 PM
By David Bill MBE
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Councillor David Bill MBEA personal view about Police Commissioners and the future of policing

The news that a Chief Constable has resigned after only two years in the post and that others might follow should give all of us concerned with policing and with community safety cause to wonder why and to consider the issues. According to the Daily Telegraph dated 27th April he has "grave concerns about elements of the police reform agenda especially the election of Police and crime Commissioners in 6 months time."

As one who has been on a Police Committee or Authority for 29 years I suppose I now have as good an insight into policing matters as anyone. Up till now Party Politics has played little if any influence but in November the Chief Constable will only be responsible to one local person, a Labour politician from the City or a Conservative politician from the County. Any other outcome is highly unlikely.

The question for us all is therefore how can the diverse interests of the City, County and Rutland be served by one person ? Can the different strands from the communities that are worlds apart in reality be accurately represented? Budget cuts already in train will require the widest possible involvement on the part of the community if confidence in the police is to be retained and improved.

Public opinion invariably demands more visible policing but it is arguable whether the real threat to our safety derives from anti-social behaviour or from the hidden impact of international crime that infiltrates and undermines the real fabric of our society.

For the last 178 years the Chief Constable and the Force have been responsible to a wide range of people, elected or appointed and thus answerable to the whole community. From November there will be no mechanism in place for this to continue other than through a watered down crime panel which does not look like undertaking this role.

As W.S.Gilbert observed, the policeman's lot is not a happy one. The police's role is to be on the front line when things go wrong. When this happens I think we will want to hear from the man in uniform rather than from a well-meaning civilian.

The Criminal Records Bureau exists in its own words "to help protect children and vulnerable adults by providing a first-class service to support organisations recruiting people into positions of trust." One of the more bizarre aspects of what is to come is that no candidate for the post of Police Commissioner will be subject to a CRB check or any other security vetting either before or after election. Anyone can apply?

For my part, I hope to continue to make a contribution by continuing to serve on our local Community Safety partnership. It is essential that we work together on the ground to ensure that crime and safety issues are tackled as effectively as possible.

David Bill

District, County and Police Authority Member