Police Authority Chairman voices concern that far-right group is already preparing to field candidates.
The Chairman of Cleveland Police Authority has voiced alarm after reports that the BNP is preparing to field Policing and Crime Commissioner candidates. Dave McLuckie warned that members of the far right group could potentially end up with huge power in police forces when the first elections for the posts are held in May 2012.
He added: “There is the danger that elections could attract candidates standing on extreme platforms, with the risk that policing priorities could be totally distorted. This is not scaremongering – the BNP has made it clear they intend to field candidates so we could have the situation where a party whose members are not allowed to be officers could hold the power to control the priorities of an entire force.”
Cllr McLuckie was responding to reports in the Daily Telegraph, which suggested that the far-right party had ex-police officers who wanted to stand as commissioners. A party spokesman told the newspaper that “several people” are interested in the role and it is “highly likely” candidates will be fielded “in as many forces as possible”.
Despite concerns that extreme groups could field commissioner candidates, ministers have played down the fear, claiming that it is important to trust the electorate. They have also highlighted that elections will be held over a wide geographic area – and that fringe parties have failed to make progress on this scale before. But in addition to the costs of creating commissioners – widely expected to run to £136 million, Cllr McLuckie said the move threatened to tear apart the foundations of the British policing system, “rightly regarded as the best in the world”. The Chairman emphasised: “The idea of having an individual in charge of policing might have superficial appeal, but any proper examination exposes the deep flaws.
“Outside one part of the Coalition government there is no support for this proposal. Indeed one of the parties in the Coalition fought the General Election on a manifesto which proposed the strengthening – rather than the destruction – of police authorities.”
As reported on PoliceOracle.com, legislation underpinning the creation of directly elected commissioners has now been presented in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. The government claims the plans will make police forces more accountable to the communities they serve and strengthen the relationship between officers and the public.