Like many people on Thursday 15th November I didn’t vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections. When I say many people didn’t vote they really didn’t, turn out was reportedly around 15%. That means 15 in every 100 of us voted. Quite a few polling stations had no one at all. So why didn’t people turn up? They were certainly important, the commissioners will be in charge of Police budgets and will be able to set crime priorities for local areas.
I would like to think that people didn’t go for the same reason I did, I have a moral and political objection to the Police being elected. I feel it has the risk of becoming too much about politics and not enough about Policing. Commissioners thinking about re-election are more likely to focus on easy to fix visible crimes like graffiti rather than less obvious crimes that happen behind close doors. Not that I don’t think tackling graffiti is important I just mean on the sliding scale of seriousness it is lower than, for instance, domestic violence. The police need to be indiscriminate in their approach to investigating crimes not just focusing on an area that their commissioner feels will get them reelected. There is also a risk that this could go even further. Commissioners could focus on a particular demographic of voter that is prevalent in their area and ignore the concerns of the minority simply because it won’t get them the votes then want.
That’s my reason for not voting, I don’t agree with the whole process of elected Police officials. However I doubt the majority of voters have put that much thought into it. I’m not trying to be patronising by saying that its just a fact that the average voter in Britain doesn’t think that hard over who their vote goes to. The real reason I suspect is money, as it always is if you dig down far enough. Most people who wanted to run as independent candidates couldn’t afford to pay the initial deposit fee of £5,000 with no guarantee it will be returned. Add on top of that the cost of actually campaigning, with staff costs, travel, information packs etc the cost of running puts the average person out of the running. Unless they have the backing of a political party, this again goes back to my concerns about politicising the Police.
But even the political parties didn’t take it that seriously, they certainly didn’t in my area. I didn’t get one leaflet, TV advert, knock on the door, not even a lousy billboard. Contrast that with general elections when millions and millions of pounds are thrown at campaigns it is telling. I think that has one of two effects on people. Either the elections completely pass them by because there was no information telling them when to vote. Or people thought well it can’t be that important if they’re not bothering to put a proper campaign together.
My verdict on these elections and the posts overall is that it is an Americanism that just doesn’t work in the UK. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to do this I don’t know. It seems a giant waste of time and money. Either the politicians thought some of their friends could do with a £65,000+ a year job or it was a way of passing responsibility for falling police standards to the Commissioners rather than government cuts. And now I’ve mentioned cuts you have lost all interest so I’m gonna end this article right in the middle of…
By Jack Troup