30 October 2013

In praise of police commissioners

Durham's Labour Police and Crime Commissioner, Ron Hogg, has called for a rethink on drug policy, calling for Danish style shooting galleries where intravenous drug users can access clean needles and medical advice while feeding there habit.  The Beeb's report claims 'Results published in the Lancet showed that prescribing pharmaceutical heroin in this way can reduce the use of street drugs and associated levels of crime.'

Meanwhile, the previous week Christopher Salmon, Dyfed/Powys's commissioner attacked the culture of the police that saw them trying to frame former Tory Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell.  In an attack reported by the Daily Mail he said: ‘The culture around police forces is too closed, too defensive, too politicised and, in some cases, feral.'

This sort of debate on drugs policy and call to account for overblown and unaccountable elements of the constabulary was almost entirely missing from the debate on crime and policing (or was easily dismissed by the vested interests at the Home Office and their media friends) before the election of police commissioners.

Now there is an influential cadre of local people - with a democratic mandate - who are able to move on the debate from the old, sterile race to be seen to be the toughest on crime - regardless of its effectiveness.  That's a good thing which I hope will lead to more of them questioning how we are currently policed and for the Lib Dems to actually take these elections seriously because - like elected Mayors - they are almost certainly here to stay.

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