Big Issue: Why you should vote for the Police and Crime Commissioner - by Richard Graham
THIS Thursday we elect Gloucestershire's first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Why does it matter and how do you decide who to vote for?
It matters because great institutions – including both Parliament and Police – should be transparent.
In August 2011, after the disturbances in Gloucester, I had to explain to the country on Newsnight what on earth had happened in our city.
But there was no-one who would objectively tell me whether our police might have contained the problem through different action. Just the previous Chief Constable telling me it was none of my business.
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But it was my, and ALL of our, business. We need to know when the police has done a great job, and should be praised, and when not. So I believe we do need an accountable PCC, who can take an objective view on behalf of residents – and keep the police focused on reducing crime and disorder most effectively.
As for the best candidate in the Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner elections, I think it depends on your views on four key issues:
1. More cash or the same budget? Over the last year crime in our county has gone down four per cent while spending on police has also gone down four per cent.
A) want to see council tax increased in order to give the police more, because you believe that more cash means less crime, or B) want to leave council tax as it is because many residents can't afford an increase, believe that cash isn't everything and that getting rid of lots of targets and paperwork means the police are now better focused on reducing crime?
2. Buildings or Bobbies?
Do you: A) Want to maintain the 27-room Victorian Police Station in Barton Street regardless of cost because a big police station is good for cutting crime, or
B) Want to make sure money is spent on front-line policing – rounding up drug dealers and illegal immigrants, discouraging street prostitution and sorting out anti-social behaviour – and believe bobbies are more important than the size of the buildings?
3. County or regional force?
A. Believe in greater co-operation between neighbouring police forces, or
B. Want to get rid of the Gloucestershire Constabulary and restructure under a regional (eg South West) Constabulary, almost certainly not headquartered in our county?
4. Party umbrella or ex-policeman?
A. Believe that being a former policeman and not having any political experience is a great advantage, or
B. Sense this is a political job requiring proven advocacy, legal and communication skills, and that an ex-policeman may be tempted to interfere in operational issues?
There is one more point. The great pacific Burmese democracy fighter Aung San Suu Kyi said in London: "Whenever a political election is above or below you, and you don't vote, you are eroding your political freedoms without realising it".
So, whoever you support, please do go and vote. Remember, you only have to vote for one candidate: the second preference is an option.