Later this week, people in England and Wales can vote on who will be the Police and Crime Commissioner for their area. Until I saw a TV ad telling me this, I had thought it was a London-only event so I went scrambling for last-minute information about how to vote.
The official PCC website explains that, “the job of the PCC will be to oversee the police and ensure they are prioritising what matters to you”. What it does not explain is why it thinks that I have any kind of knowledge or expertise in hiring police professionals. I know nothing about it, and I don't really want the responsibility.
I have recruited mental health professionals before, and a receptionist or two, but I can't think of a single thing I have to contribute to recruiting a police bloke. And bloke it will be, where I live at least. I have the choice of five white men, each making radical and controversial* promises such as reducing crime, being “on your side”, reducing bureaucracy and waste and, outstandingly, catching criminals (*actually neither radical nor controversial). One of them even believes that, “As a society we have largely overcome discrimination”. How many live his happy, privileged life?
It's not just South Yorkshire where the candidates standing for election do not represent the communities they may be elected to. 81.8% of the candidates nationally are men, leaving only 18.2% women, with 1/3 of all seats having no women standing for election at all. Political blogger Jim Jepps highlighted that, “Labour are the best party at fielding women as candidates with 34% of their candidates being female (14 of them). The Conservatives are fielding 6 women, The Lib Dems 4 and UKIP 3”.
Try as I might, I have been unable to find breakdowns on the grounds of race, sexuality, disability or age, but I fear that minority groups may be as pitifully represented as women are.
The candidates are fearing a low voter turnout, and I don't blame them. But while they may blame the time of year and the minimal publicity, I think there is more to it. Until we properly understand the role of Police and Crime Commissioner, until we can grasp why we are being asked to choose somebody in place of recruiters who would actually know what they are looking for, and until the gang to choose from look a bit less like everybody else who has power over us, then a low turnout and negligible level of public interest is to be expected.
Image via Metropolitan Police