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Police shake-up is a victory for democracy
12:43pm Friday 26th October 2012 in News
VOTERS may well be horribly confused this week as polling cards drop through their letter boxes asking them to participate in elections for new police commissioners. And police officers may also well be furious at the prospect of having to effectively report to a politician with little or no experience of working with the force.
But the Bucks Free Press today sticks its neck out to back the principle of the controversial new system – and to ask for it to be extended into other walks of public life, namely health.
We understand the drawbacks. An elected politician could create inertia by refusing for populist reasons to make radical but important changes.
And will they really have any proper power, or will this still reside with central Government, and effectively make them nothing more than a figurehead?
Furthermore, we understand the frustration of experienced and dedicated police officers who would have to report into someone with little prior knowledge of their field of work. Current police bosses speak from years of frontline experience, while their new commissioner will presumably have none of this real-life expertise to fall back on.
However, the interests of democracy trumps all of these reservations, in our view. Previously, there has been very little public accountability. True, there were police authorities made up of various councillors, but these were not easy institutions for the man-in-the-street to tap into and influence.
The commissioner, however, will be elected every few years and will be judged by the public on his or her performance. Finally, there will be a way for the common man to have a specific say via the ballot box over the way we are policed.
It is now our earnest wish that this system is extended into the world of health. If that had previously been the case, then surely an elected commissioner would never have been allowed by the masses to permit the transfer of vital health services away from Wycombe Hospital.
The idea of commissioner may be far from perfect, but it shines a truly democratic light into a vital public institution – and that can only be a good thing.