Mail on Sunday comment: Give us proper policing – not silly gimmicks
Mail On Sunday Comment
00:04 GMT, 7 April 2013
07:57 GMT, 8 April 2013
Paris Brown's Twitter shows she is wholly unfitted to offer advice to the most junior, most inexperienced constable
When the people ask for action, governments respond by giving them gimmicks.
Tony Blair was famous for demanding ‘eye-catching initiatives with which I can be personally associated’, but he is certainly not the only culprit.
The idea of elected Police Commissioners was conceived by the Conservatives to counter a growing – and justified – feeling that a once-respected service had become unresponsive and remote.
Predictably, the Commissioners have done little to change this state of affairs, which is rooted in decades of Left-inclined legislation and in the long-ago forced mergers of genuinely local constabularies into sprawling, remote bureaucracies.
Now the gimmick has spawned its own gimmick. Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes, has announced the appointment of 17-year-old Paris Brown, at 15,000 a year, to help police ‘stay in touch with young people’.
It is hard to see any need for this. The police are in close touch with plenty of young people, of all kinds. Many young men and women join the police or serve as specials. Others meet them in different circumstances – especially on Friday and Saturday nights when officers haul them, drunk and dishevelled, into paddy wagons.
Miss Brown does not seem blessed with any original ideas on crime and disorder. But – as her tweets reveal – she is wholly unfitted to offer advice to the most junior, most inexperienced constable – even though she is to be paid nearly as much as a new police recruit.
Were she a private citizen, it would be easy to dismiss her remarks about drink, drugs and violence as the stupid vapourings of an immature half-child. The same could be said of her four-letter language and her politically incorrect outbursts.
But – and this is the astonishing thing –she is an appointed official on the public payroll who might conceivably have real influence over policing.
This is intolerable, and she should resign before she makes an even bigger fool of herself. There must also be serious doubts about the future of Commissioner Barnes, who either knew her true character and did not care, or did not bother to check.
More important still, our political leaders should stop trying to placate voters with empty stunts, which lead to embarrassments such as this.
They should instead make a serious effort to find out what is wrong with law enforcement, and put it right.
Kent Police Comissioner, Ann Barnes either knew her true character and did not care, or did not bother to check
Law unto themselves
The failure of the Police Commissioners scheme should not in any way blind us to the growing unaccountability of appointed police chiefs.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has quietly begun to make the law for its members, without consulting Parliament. Its latest step in this worrying direction is a proposed ban on confirming the names of arrested suspects.
The police know full well that such a ban puts newspapers and broadcasters in an impossible position, though – as usual – it has no effect on the semi-lawless internet.
Responsible editors cannot risk wrongly identifying arrested persons. So they will not identify them at all, and the action will, in effect, be made secret.
This is a grave step backwards. In a free society, justice must be seen to be done and witnesses encouraged to come forward. Arrests cannot be secret.
Parliament should make it clear to ACPO that it does not possess this power.