Concern over ‘part-time’ police chiefs

First published in Our View

The report today stating that new police commissioners may be allowed to work part-time raises a number of issues.

Can it be right that these newly created roles, which will be voted for by people in the force areas and which offer large salaries – £100,000 a year in West Yorkshire – might not be full time? If the position is so important to the development of our police forces, how can this be the case?

Further, it presents an opportunity to again examine the whole idea of elected commissioners, due to come in this November. In one sense these elections will be fairly unrepresentative in that many people won’t know many of the candidates who come forward and what exactly their role will ultimately be because it is such a new role.

But on the other hand, you have to wonder what the value of more famous names coming into the frame will be, with former politicians like John Prescott in the running for Humberside and former chief constable Keith Hellawell said to be in the running for West Yorkshire. If they ended up running these forces could they really be independent and non-political?

If it is a former police officer, we could end up with the rather bizarre situation where a former chief constable overseeing the current chief constable might lead to policy and ideological battles between the two.

It may be that we are better off upping the powers of the existing police authorities and making the chief constable more accountable to representatives of the community this way.

The current police committees may not be ideal but it would seem to be a better structure than having all the power divested to one person, who could conceivably be in the role part-time anyway.

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