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Previously, a Chief Constable for each force was the CEO. They were appointed like a hospital consultant by the job being advertised and interviews being held by an appointment committee, composed of senior police officers and members of the local police authority, to which the Chief constable is responsible. The police authority is an appointed body, of local councillors, independent members and magistrates.
So far, so undemocratic, and the idea of an elected person in overall charge of your Police force is attractive. The Tory Party manifesto for the present coalition government included an additional post over that of chief constable, the Police and Crime Commissioner, who will be elected by secret ballot, as local and national government representatives have and should be elected. But in those elections, resources are available from party funds, to inform the public about the election.
The Government said that they wanted independent people to offer themselves for this role, and in many cases they did. But the Government provided no funding, not even for a list of candidates to go though people's doors, and as a result all the independents have dropped out. The only way to find out even a list of candidates is to go online. In my police force area, I can choose from Tory, Labour, LibDem and UKIP candidates, all of whom are local councillors. Each has a statement on the website http://www.choosemypcc.org.uk/ but no details at all about their previous political or personal career, for which I must go to their own websites, which with every good will are biased.
If the Government really wanted independents, why did they not provide funding and leave that to the political parties? These important posts and the exciting possibility of non-political people to take on these new and powerful posts has been wasted, in a time when there is a lack of trust in career politicians and a lack of interest in election and the political process.
The elections are due in just over two weeks time. I hope that my local newspaper will soon produce some more searching interviews with the candidates, that will tell us a bit more about them than the anodyne wish lists that are their personal statements and political websites.
Meanwhile, the election of the local Police Chief is a staple of American politics, and may be so elsewhere. I'll be interested in comments from anyone on the post as it exists in your country. Whe you think that a hospital Trust has about the same budget as a county police force, and health is just as much a political football as crime fighting, I wonder how long before Trust chairs are elected?