Talking Politics: I’ve changed my mind on role of police commissioner

The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commisioner Mark Burns-Williamson
The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commisioner Mark Burns-Williamson

I have been asked several times what my opinion is of the Police & Crime Commissioners role.

I must say that initially I was sceptical and couldn’t get enthused about the role at all. I have however changed my view.

Yes, turnout for the elections was incredibly low. Yes, the Government failed to put its case across as to why we needed the new role. Yes, the failure to provide free postage for each candidate meant little campaign material went out to help enthuse the electorate and help them understand what all the fuss was about. And yes, the salary is generous - but half the cost of what it replaces.

The reason for my change of heart and realisation of why we need them is quite simply about one thing. Accountability.

Here in West Yorkshire we have a Police Force that we are, and should be proud of. They work often in incredibly tough situations and also put their lives at risk so that we as citizens can feel safe and provide us with one of the lowest crime rates in England.

There is however clearly a real ethos in the Police Force that needs addressing. I refer to the Hillsborough disaster; the alleged Orgreave stitch-up; Plebgate; the fact that our Chief Constable had to take early retirement because of his alleged involvement with the cover up at Hillsborough; The Savile enquiry. With 500 complaints against Savile, whilst the recent report on the case found there was “nothing to suggest” the decisions  were “consciously influenced by any improper motive on the part of either the police or prosecutors”, it did go on to say that further action might have been possible had “police and prosecutors taken a different approach”.

It is clear from those few instances alone that someone has lacked taking accountability for Police failures. It is for this reason that I now firmly believe that to have an elected Official who does take accountability is well overdue and the Police & Crime Commissioners role fills that brief. If we as the general public are unhappy with the way in which the PCC takes responsibility and accountability, they get sacked via the ballot box. Surely a far better system than the one we had in place which has clearly failed over many years.