Julie Porksen writes on PCC elections and Investigatory Powers Bill


Given the parlous state of world security and in particular the UK, how can the Government even consider reducing police numbers and at the same time, along with the police and crime commissioner, be less than enthusiastic about police performance, culminating in a loss of respect from the general public?
Bobbies on the beat can help deter acts of terror, yet it is competent security services that will be instrumental in thwarting terror attacks. The Conservative’s Investigatory Powers Bill, the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, justified by fear of terrorism, is not only an infringement of our fundamental human right to privacy, but will make work more complex for the security services. The volume of data collected by mass surveillance on each of our personal internet browsing histories will make finding that elusive needle in a haystack even harder.

I do believe it is worth having a functioning local police force, and that numbers should not be cut. Calculating value for money for prevention of crime is difficult, and the role of the police is much more than just crime statistics. With the loss of many local police stations, reduced visibility and accessibility of the police is a big issue for some communities and could be improved with increased police on the streets.

Individual Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) cannot be as good at providing the checks and balances and challenging police performance as police authorities were with their diverse representation. Performance improvement of the police, like any service, requires constant attention as demands of that service evolve over time and staff change. The PCC should help create a culture of self-improvement in our police forces – not just self-defence when failings occur. There will be some failings - abuse of power, fraud, racism - however, I believe a quality force is one that continually tries to minimise the risk of these failings occurring, admits and learns when it fails, and ensures failings are not institutionalised.

Across the country, I believe many communities do trust the police, although with notable exceptions reported such as young black men in London - due to the stop and search rates they face. Trust is something that not a given and I think many police forces now acknowledge this and are working hard to earn public trust.

For two years I worked in Peru – it was not a safe feeling knowing I trusted any stranger such as an unlicensed taxi driver more than a police officer. In Britain, I feel safe knowing that I trust the police and can turn to them for help.

Soon, the Conservative Government and the security services could be monitoring every single one of us. When this happens, will you trust them?

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