Peers backed by 188 votes to 176, a Liberal Democrat and Labour wrecking amendment to scrap the creation of police and crime commissioners. It is expected that the Government will try to overturn the House of Lords revolt when the Bill returns to the House of Commons for further consideration.
Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty said:
“Independent policing is as vital as an independent judiciary and Chief Constables should be above party politics not subordinate to it. Peers should be congratulated for rejecting this dangerous proposal and showing their commitment to the Rule of Law - surely now Government must listen"
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill would abolish police authorities replacing them with directly elected politicians who would oversee local police forces and hire and fire Chief Constables. This compromises the force’s independence and puts pressure on police to serve a political agenda rather than the community as a whole.
The Prime Minister has acknowledged
that the policy was inspired by the American system of elected sheriffs, which
has been heavily criticised even by those who have worked in that jurisdiction.
Jessica de Grazia, New York’s former chief assistant district attorney, has said
she is ‘especially concerned about the impact on disenfranchised communities -
the poor always suffer most from crime, and the poor are less likely to vote.’
She has also spoken about the risk of corruption and abuse of power which she
has witnessed in the American system. Self-styled ‘America’s toughest sheriff’
Joseph Arpaio, elected sheriff for 18 years of Maricopa County in Arizona, has
been investigated about allegations of systematic discriminatory police
practices and racial profiling. Independent research established that the
Sheriff’s office had diverted funds from basic law enforcement to highly
publicised and discriminatory immigration sweeps.
The BNP has repeatedly and openly stated that it would strategise to win elected policing roles. Although the far-right party may not have won a seat in the general election, its overall vote did increase – and last month a BNP member was elected deputy Mayor of an East Lancashire town.
A YouGov poll, conducted on behalf
suggested little public appetite for the Government proposals. Only 15% of
those polled said they would trust an elected Police and Crime Commissioner more
than the present system to protect their family from crime.
Contact: Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128
Notes to editors