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26 June 2012

Police and crime commissioners and the local Church

Police and crime commissioners and the local Church

On 15 November, all voters in England and Wales outside London will be asked to elect the first police and crime commissioner for the area covered by their police force.

In total 41 police commissioners will be elected who will have a huge influence on how criminal activity is reduced across the land.

Theresa May referred to this in the Daily Telegraph on 14 June when speaking of the process of policing reform. She said: "Our most important change is the introduction of directly-elected police and crime commissioners with real responsibility – and real power – over local policing."

It is widely accepted that this post has been modeled on the policing role of the mayor of London.

As Christians most of us will have a strong bias towards justice issues, and our national laws are widely accepted as being inspired by Judeo-Christian thinking.

This should lead to a natural link between the churches and the law and order practitioners in our midst. Yet despite this, many within our churches are unaware of this change which Sir Hugh Orde has suggested is the most substantial change in policing since the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829.

The men and women elected (to date most of the candidates are men) will probably have an electoral mandate greater than any of our MPs or councillors.

One estimate is that most PCCs will have a greater electoral mandate than the combined mandates of the prime minister, home secretary and policing minister.

The name and biographies of these candidates won't be published until 19 October which gives a mere four weeks to decide who to vote for. This will be further hindered by a decision not to communicate the names of the candidates to their electorate apart from through a national website (which includes the option for voters to request a printout to be sent to them if they ring or email their request).

Unlike our MPs and councillors, these PCCs won't have a context for collective decision-making and so the usual tribal nature of politics will have a great deal less relevance. As this role is specifically regarding our police force, and crime reduction, many people believe that party politics should not play a role here. Indeed the original plans were to exclude political parties from participating in these elections.

Among those who are standing is Ian Chisnall, who hopes to be elected in Sussex as an independent. Ian suggests: "Just like justice, the police commissioner will need to demonstrate blindness to all vested interest and institutional bias, including that of all party political ideology. As a Christian, an understanding of the life of Jesus offers me insight into how world changing leadership demands death to self and tradition."

Visit the Home Office website for more information on police and crime commissioners.