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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Cumbria crime commissioner’s post should cop it

Time, they always say, is a great healer. Its inevitable passage is also a mischievous distorter of memory.

Stuart Hyde photo
Stuart Hyde

Remember all that fury and bluster over Cumbria’s police and crime commissioner? Of course we do.

Now, think again – are we sure we remember what all that anger it was for?

Push the rewind button and have another look. We didn’t want a commissioner. That much was clear.

We were so deeply set against having one – whoever it was going to be – that all but a pathetically embarrassing 12 per cent of our county’s population failed to turn out to vote. And a goodly number of the few who did spoiled their ballot papers, adding insult to government injury.

Then, having been landed with an undemocratically barely-elected public office, the righteously dissenting majority found justification for their protest in what unfolded next.

A humiliating expenses scandal, growth and more growth of office salaries, the repeatedly extended suspension of a chief constable for a collection of silly sins – the kind for which a schoolboy might have earned a detention... if very unlucky.

Eventually that chief was allowed briefly back to work as deputy, only to accept comfortable retirement on full chief’s pension weeks later.

Whistleblowers were arrested, investigated and released without charge, rightly to claim the moral high ground as dutiful exposers of withheld truth.

None of it did Cumbria any good at all. All of it cost Cumbria dearly. Reputations and a whole lot of cash would have been saved, had we not had the office of PCC foisted on us by a government with no credible reason for creating one – other than politicising the police. So now, with heads held high and hands on hearts we can repeat – we never wanted a PCC. We didn’t want one then and nothing has happened since to change our minds.

But in recalling the fury that resisted creation of an unnecessary and costly office, let’s remember clearly that this wasn’t about any individual. It was about government shuffling political influence into a once independent police force, which used to work openly with its public to fight crime.

So, when that long-time suspended chief constable Stuart Hyde, a fierce critic of the office of PCC, now says he’s considering standing against Richard Rhodes in the next election, is he charging in like St George to slay the dragon and clean up its den – or is he selling out for the chance to breathe his own fire.

Mr Hyde has gained a lot of support for his intention to enter the electoral fray. He feels badly done to. Most observers agree, he was shabbily treated. He has public sympathy. The News & Star online message forums tell at least that much.

Mr Hyde has tapped into our distorted memories by making his – and our – fight with the commissioner personal. And the truth about any worthy argument is that once any one party gets personal, his argument has already been lost.

Posturing for a duel was never even close to the point. The irrelevance of the office was – and is.

To assume a former chief constable would make a better politician than a former headmaster is to weigh comparisons between a pot and a kettle. Who’s to say an entirely different individual (not quite) elected by a handful of party-faithful into a political office, would have behaved any differently – a whole lot worse, even?

Put too much power into a single pair of hands, on the strength of an election no one wanted, is to ask for trouble. And we got it.

Set aside opinions of individuals and rewind to the original point of anger. We didn’t want our police force politicising. We still don’t – not by a former headmaster, neither by a bitter ex-cop.

Wind back to the beginning. We don’t want and don’t need a police commissioner’s office, with office staff, pulling the strings of our chief constable and demanding his or her obedience.

We need more police officers. End of.

Have your say

Stick to ya cycling Stuart, its loads more fun and tons less hassle!!!

Posted by big ron on 15 March 2014 at 20:53

Just get rid of all PCC positions

Posted by Anon on 14 March 2014 at 12:19

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