My local police authority is made up of 17 members, half of whom are elected councillors, and the remainder are made up of 4 magistrates, a former headteacher and a Chief Executive of a charity among others. This strikes me as a fairly reasonable – if arbitrary – collection of people to help to represent the wider community. They are certainly no more or less representative than the average academy governing body.
And yet, in three weeks time that collective authority – with its shared and collective responsibility – will be replaced by a single politician. Firstly, I still don’t really understand the rationale for the change from corporate to individual responsibility. As far as I’m aware, from government, to the BBC, to big business, every other large organisation has a board of some sort to strike strategic direction, so this change seems odd to me. But more importantly, of all the large organisations in our society, one of those which I would most want to protect from political interference is the police service.
Nevertheless, from next month I have to decide whether I want to participate in the selection of a candidate from the narrow range of politicians on offer, or to absent myself from the electoral process.
But I don’t know anything about crime, much less about crime prevention, detection or management. And more to the point, it suits me quite well to leave the organisation of such things to people who do. Part of my instinct – like so many of us – is to think that more ‘bobbies on the beat’ is A GOOD THING. But like so many other things so deemed, I also know that the reality is that policing is far more complex than that.
I don’t want this choice. I am not qualified to make this choice – and more to the point, I am unconvinced that any of those standing are qualified to act upon such a choice.
I don’t get a choice about whether such a system is brought in, it seems. But in the absence of any other method of expressing my discontent, I shall do the only thing I can. Pain me as it does to opt out of the civic process, I shall attend my polling station, collect my paper, and spoil it.
And I hope it will be counted among many such forms.