Douglas Carswell

05 FEB 2016

More power to the sheriffs

Perhaps it's because it's the term I used when I first proposed directly police chiefs over a decade ago. Maybe it's because there's something a little bureaucratic and pedestrian about the word "commissioner". Whatever the reason, I still think we should call Police and Crime Commissioners sheriff.

When locally elected sheriffs .... sorry .... Police & Crime Commissioners were introduced in 2012, they were met with a lot of cynicism. But four years on, PCCs have proved their worth. The Home Secretary's new plan to give them more power is a step in the right direction.

The idea behind elected sheriffs / PCCs was to make police services accountable to local people, and put a single person in charge. Experience shows they have succeeded. The Home Affairs Select Committee's PCC report confirmed: "PCCs have provided greater clarity of leadership for policing."

PCCs have also had one big success: overthrowing the Association of Chief Police Officers. That means policing now reflects local priorities, instead of national, top-down directives from unaccountable officials.

Of course, not all PCCs have been brilliant. But that's the beauty of electing them: commissioners who fail to serve local people properly can be turfed out in elections this May.

Critics of the PCCs said they would politicise the police and disempower the professionals. But recent reports of historic police scandals and cover-ups show how important accountability is. It's not enough just to trust the professionals: institutions need to be responsible to the people they work for.

Yesterday, the Home Secretary not only confirmed that PCCs are here to stay, but announced plans to increase their powers over criminal justice. This is good news: the Crown Prosecution Service is as closed to the public as the police were. It would be fantastic if PCCs could hold it to account.

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