On Thursday November 15 2012 Hampshire will have six candidates competing for the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) role. This new position will see successful candidates managing budgets, appointing chief constables and establishing priorities for the police force in their areas. The big question is: just how political will this position become?
Each of the three main political parties has put forward a candidate for the Hampshire PCC position. Michael Mates is running from the Conservatives, Jacqui Rayment from Labour, and David Goodall from the Liberal Democrats. In addition to this, Stephen West is running as a UKIP candidate. All of these candidates come from political backgrounds, for example Mates was an MP for East Hampshire from 1974 to 2010 and West was previously a Conservative councillor before defecting to UKIP in September 2012. Ex-Conservative councillor Simon Hayes is running as an independent and Don Jerrard is running for the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party. Jerrard remains the only candidate for Hampshire without a professional political background.
Simon Hayes, who is running as an independent, agrees that policing and politics must remain separate, stating “I’m standing as an independent candidate because I believe party politics must be kept out of policing”. Hayes is one of many that believe that party politics should not interfere in the PCCs’ role of providing accountability to the public for policing in their area.
Hayes’ belief is echoed in Warwickshire where Andrew Moss, a retired police sergeant, withdrew from the running after discovering another independent candidate Ron Ball had decided to stand. An independent candidate himself, Moss claims his sole reason for running was to prevent political parties from being in the position to influence policing. He has the view that “someone representing a major political party will not be able to always act in the best interests of the community where those interests are at odds with party policy.”
It seems that politicians are indeed dominating the race for PCC positions, not just in Hampshire, but throughout the 41 areas where elections are being held. But why is this a problem? Firstly, the job of the police force is to prevent crime and to keep the peace, while acting impartially and without danger of political bias. Additionally, one of the PCCs’ roles will be accountability to the public, as a politician this could be impeded as they would also remain accountable to their political party. With the possibility that politicians, or even former politicians, may soon be taking responsibility for policing in many areas around England and Wales, the distinction between party politics and the police force may become worryingly blurred.
Additionally, as far back as March, Lib Dem MP Tom Brake expressed his concern over the fact that a number of politicians, or ex-politicians had been putting themselves forward for the PCC position. It was hoped that many more independent candidates would also stand, however in Hampshire, as in many other areas, four out of six candidates are affiliated with the three main political parties, as well as UKIP.
The Police and Crime Commissioner Election takes place on Thursday, November 15 2012.