|Photo Courtesy: theguardian.co.uk|
Something unimaginable in the Indian context of policing will soon take place in the United Kingdom.
Forty one police units across England, except the English capital London, will go to polls on November 15 to elect their first Police and Crime Commissioner. In London, the post will be vested on the Mayor, who will be in-charge of the police, similar to how mayors of cities in the United States function.
Though the process of appointing democratically elected Commissioners to head police units has not generated much enthusiasm, former Members of Parliament and Councillors have thrown their hat in the fray. The Police and Crime Commissioner will now control is policing and give people more say in how policing should take place.
The new Commissioners will be accountable to the people who elected them, and not the political bosses, as it happens now. The PCCs will chalk out own plans for policing in consultation with the Chief Constables and the advisory committee, ensuring better budgetary spending, and making policing all inclusive.
The new democratic arrangement, introduced by the new Police Reforms and Social Responsibility Act 2011, hopes to bridge gap between communities and police and understand mutual expectations. The new step aims to cut crimes and provide community leadership to the police force.
The first question being raised in Britain even before the PCCs get elected is how many people would cast votes for the November 15 polls. The local government is already finding not much enthusiasm among people for the poll and if the turnout emerges to be poor, the question that arises is whether the new Commissioner truly represents majority people in the community.
It is strange that Britain is going ahead to democratise its police and bring in synergy between the police and the masses, while in India, we are moving in the direction of providing more independence to police by freeing them from the influence of the political leadership. In Britain it’s a case of bringing in more public intervention in police functioning, while in India, we are trying to free the police from unwarranted and too much interference of elected representatives.
In all likelihood, the Police and Crime Commissioner’s post is likely to end up to be a constitutional post but without any influence on the law and order duties of the police department. While the Commissioner will influence budget and spending and too a large extent the administration of police, the checks and balances in the form of responsibilities of the Chief Constable and the advisory committee will not let the Commissioner manipulate the system.