Police Commissioners! The Pros & Cons.

Having had a torrid time from 1995 to 99, as an elected member of the North Wales Police Authority, I accept the system as I saw it just did not work. All those years ago, the Merseyside Police Authority was probably as bad as the North Wales Authority and I doubt that much has changed for the better. In that Authority, the Chair and another Cllr, both senior Labour politicians were so extremely hostile towards my police equality case that I won in the High Court for being unlawfully suspended. “Lord Justice McPherson gave that telling statement,” There’s a smell of unfairness about this case”. Having served Merseyside diligently for 8 years as an ACC, as soon as I mounted a discrimination action against the force in 1990, I was ditched and humiliated by the body that employed me. They unswervingly took the Chief Constable’s side & I had to fight two enemies, the police and its Authority.

It was going to be fiendishly difficult for my barrister to present the facts that I had been unlawfully suspended. The arguments were like dealing with smoke and mirrors as Police Authority rules were complex and unclear. I was given help by Jan, a Merseyside Police employee who had a brilliant grasp of these strange rules. I was tasked to sit in Mr Justice Sedley’s chambers in London and write a brief for him. Little old me with my 5 ‘O’ levels working on a brief for two Briefs in a book lined sunny room on Jan’s inside information in the Inns of Court. Team work paid off. My suspension was lifted in December 91 & by January 9th 1992; my police authority suspended me again.

That same month, a second judicial review was launched as my PA was accused of malice. Even when the case was finally settled, in July, 92, the Police Authority refused to pay the miserly £10k I had been awarded by the Tribunal. At the age of 52 and with the right to work to 65, on by those day’s standards; a mega salary, my loss of earnings was truly enormous. No loss of earnings claims existed all those years ago.

Reel back to the North Wales Police Authority and Flintshire County Council’s shadow year of 1995. I was a new Labour councillor with 30 years on the “Job” under my belt. It made me the natural choice to be the Flintshire elected member on the PA. Cllr Dennis Parry and a Wrexham Cllr, Malcolm King, all fought to make the PA accountable on complaints against senior officers. I was being pushed by two North Wales business men, who so infuriated by dreadful police antics, advertised in their local papers for people with a similar bleat; to come forward. Seventy did. I got a huge pile of complaints to deal with & hardly a night went by during those years as an elected member, when I was not working on advice to these complainants and for Campaign for Justice.

Home Office coped with the Merseyside PA rebelliousness of 1992, by introducing a whole new breed of unelected Authority members: the dreaded Home Office “place-people.” Home Office drew up the short list for the selecting PA to choose from and Home Office even tried to insist these Establishment “safe-hands”, became Police Authority Chairmen. Common sense reigned when the Lord’s threw out this crude attempt to politicise the Police but they became members of Police Authorities & in North Wales, always firmly backed the Chief.

The Police Authority alone had responsibility for discipling senior officers. Despite over four years of challenging the system based on numerous serious complaints from members of the public, not one investigation was ever started. We three Labour members were always outvoted even though I had been the Complaints & Discipline Department in Merseyside & I should have been listened to as the expert.

Even the magistrate Chair denied us any enquiry & they all ganged up to stop the public ever achieving justice. The Police Authority proved once again, that most members willingly signed up as a fully paid up stooge in the cosy Chief Constable’s club. Even the legal costs the force spent on defending itself was buried in the force’s accounts, hidden under misleading financial headings. On 15th November, voters are being asked to heap on the winner, a £100k salary & almost more power than a Chief Constable. By chance, I read the mini CV’s of the contenders in a newspaper. I was totally underwhelmed. Some had absolutely no previous involvement in policing and their paper thin manifesto pledges failed to inspire as some would prove to be unworkable. I thought long & hard before I ticked one name on my postal vote. At least he’d been a Special Constable who became a Special’s boss but even this fact is allegedly shrouded in mystery.

This project is a mess. It’s unfair on the public who will pay for another Quango and to Chief Constables. They have so little knowledge. I was too hasty in ruling myself out as being too old. I’m still serving the public as a Cllr. If I had stood, surely all these Police Commissioner hopefuls would not have stood a chance. Who knows?

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