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Are police commissioners all visibility and no substance, asks Birmingham academic

Are police commissioners all visibility and no substance, asks Birmingham academic

🕔29.May 2013

A withering critique of the creeping politicisation of Britain’s police forces and the Government’s failure to enforce effective scrutiny of Police and Crime Commissioners has been published by a Birmingham University professor.

Ron Amann, once a high-ranking civil servant, who was an independent member of the West Midlands Police Authority from 2007 until it was wound up last year, insists that non-politicians have been “entirely written out of the script” as far as holding PCCs to account is concerned.

Commenting on the introduction of police commissioners, Prof Amann asks: “The categorical imperative for forcing through this change in the face of considerable public disquiet is evidently less about capability than visibility. But will this turn out to be visibility without real substance?”

In an article in the Political Quarterly, Prof Amann, a former Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office and head of the Economic and Social Research Council, paints a grim picture of councillors who anticipated a “cosy sinecure” when appointed to WMPA.

He suggests it was chiefly the energy and commitment of independent members that gradually turned WMPA into an effective body capable of developing policy and quizzing senior police chiefs.

When he first joined the police authority, Prof Amann says it was not uncommon for some of the nine elected councillor members to arrive late for meetings, play with their mobile phones and make no contribution to debate, a state of affairs that left independent members “quietly seething”.

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