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Chief Constables are squealing about democratic oversight? Good

By Mark Wallace
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PoliceOne sure sign of a successful reform is when the vested interests it is intended to take on start to squeal about it. So it is good news that Chief Constables are getting their knickers in a twist about Police and Crime Commissioners using their powers.

Their protests come after the Chief Constable of Gwent was ousted from her job by independent PCC Ian Johnston. Sir Hugh Orde of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the deeply suspect (and very wealthy) union for senior coppers, has demanded a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss proposals to rein in PCCs.

They don't need reining in - in fact, Gwent is a good example of a PCC doing his job. As a representative of the people, Ian Johnston is meant to do what he thinks is in the best interests of effective policing. He has done so, and will be judged on the results at the next election. If the Chief Constable was to be protected from such action, PCCs would be hamstrung - which is exactly what senior police officers want.

A few years ago, I spoke at an ACPO conference. I told the assembled top brass that the MPs' expenses scandal was just the beginning - that transparency and accountability would come to policing just as they were starting to come to other parts of the public sector. They should prepare to embrace such a process, I suggested, or else fall foul of it.

It's fair to say my message didn't go down well (not helped by the fact that day's Sun front page featured me criticising an absurd ACPO report on training police officers on how to ride bicycles). In fact, I felt about as popular as Darth Vader at an Ewok's birthday party, but I hadn't come to make friends.

Some senior police officers took on board the fact that democratic oversight was coming - either at that conference or since. As Sir Hugh Orde's intervention makes clear, many others still haven't woken up to the new situation. The louder he squeals, the more committed to preserving accountability the Home Secretary should become.


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