Tuesday, March 04, 2014


It`s been a big day here in deepest Kent with the unveiling of the newly appointed Youth Crime Commissioner.  Nineteen year-old Kerry Boyd from Margate will be taking a year off from her studies at Canterbury College to take on the £15,000 salaried role vacated almost a year ago by the unfortunate Paris Brown.

Now Ms. Boyd seems well qualified for the role, all the boxes have apparently been ticked and she will now take her place in the office of Kent`s Police and Crime Commissioner, Ann Barnes.   I really don`t have a problem with Kerry Boyd but I have always had doubts about the goings on in the brave new world of Police Commissioners.   These people were elected by an apathetic public who displayed their ambivalence towards the whole business by registering the lowest turn-outs in UK electoral history.   

And I suspect that apathy has been demonstrated by the fact that the only real interest shown in Mrs. Barnes tenure so far has been over the appointment of the Youth Commissioner.   It was in her `manifesto` of course so maybe we should at least acknowledge that, for once, a manifesto pledge has been honoured.   But I can`t escape the notion that the Youth Commissioner role is little more than tokenism, populism even and it leads to some questions that need answering.

First, why just a Youth Commissioner?  Why not an Elderly Persons Commissioner, a Commissioner for the Disabled or Ethic Minorities or any other group of society that might feel left out if they don`t have a Commissioner of their own?   And let`s not forget that whilst Mrs. Barnes is there to oversee policing in Kent and that she is presumably answerable to the Kent electorate, there is yet another august body in this seemingly endless tangle of bureaucracy - the allegedly independent Police and Crime Panel whose job it is to hold the Commissioner to account. 

You begin to wonder how effective the Panel might be and who might hold the Panel to account - possibly the Home Office, I don`t know, but what`s clear is that there is too much `structure,` too many layers of command, too many cooks.   And all the while, the one thing the good folk of Kent expect is that their streets are patrolled and kept safe by a dedicated, reliable and respected police force on the ground.  

I have my suspicions that the rank and file in the force are overworked, quite probably underpaid and more than likely unappreciated, so instead of tokenism, publicity-seeking and attention-grabbing stunts like Youth Commissioners, perhaps that towering, multi-layered, bureaucratic `structure` should concern itself more with what goes on on the ground rather than forever chasing after pies in the sky?

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