James Forsyth

Elected police commissioners are a test of whether the Tories are serious or not about their agenda

Elected police commissioners are a test of whether the Tories are serious or not about their agenda
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Sir Hugh Orde, the head of the Association of Chief Police officers, has issued another broadside against Tory plans for locally elected police commissioner. Orde has warned that senior police officers will resign over the plans and that, “Even the perception that the police service of this country… is under any political influence, I think that suggests you cannot argue that you are a proper democratic society.” This is an absurd argument. The idea that you are not a proper democratic society because the police commissioner is accountable to the public via the ballot box is obviously nonsense.

But the Tories will face a lot of this kind of criticism as the police, a totally unreformed public service, close ranks against the idea. There will be suggestions that elected police commissioners will lead to political opponents being arrested and a whole bunch of other scare stories. The police will probably garner significant establishment support for their position, as soggy commentators fret that letting people decide on police priorities is dangerously populist.

It is crucial that the Tories do not back down under this pressure. Locally elected police commissioners would be transformative, they would ensure that the police concentrate on the crimes that most effect peoples’ quality of life. The current top down, target-ridden culture would be replaced by accountability to the public.

If the Tories aren’t prepared to face down a man like Hugh Orde, someone who proves the need for a reverse march through the institutions, then they won’t be much of a government.