This month, the UK will witness the closest thing to a policing beauty pageant this country has ever seen, as officers strut up and down the streets in their shiniest uniform, letting us all know (whether we wanted to or not) just what they have done to deserve to be part of the latest group of the overpaid elite.
Once elected, the UK’s first police commissioners will replace the previous set-up, where a group of local authorities decide on the budget, action and future of the police force, to gain control of policing in their respectable regions, with a hefty price tag of up to £100,000 per year to match. Elections will take place on Thursday 15th November, when voters get to rock up to the nearest polling station in their Sunday best, pretending they know what they’re signing for, tick the first name they like the sound of, and walk straight back out through the door.
Unsurprisingly, the turnout prediction is at an all-time low; The Electoral Reform Society have suggested that the attendance could even be as modest as 18.5 per cent, meaning that over 80 per cent of the population won’t even bother turning up. Surely something has to change, because no matter how self-indulgent this idea may seem, the 41 elected police commissioners we will be throwing our lives, safety, and money at, will each play a large role in our community, whether we like it or not.
It seems that the problem here is that very few people will actually know what they’re signing for; It’s like signing for a delivery on your doorstep, unwanted, and for all you know, full of snakes. The thirty-second advert that has been plaguing our TV screens for the past couple of months might has well have been a preview for the latest Road Wars, and the countless leaflets we have all had through the post are either on the floor where they fell through the letterbox two weeks ago, in the rubbish bin, or under that stack of takeaway leaflets on the kitchen table. Other than this, and the glorious, omniscient Wikipedia, news of the elections has been kept to a minimum. So what are we supposed to do?
This nation of ours is pretty good at giving up when they think they’ve found a lost cause. The electoral turnout for 2010’s General Election was 65 per cent, and we were voting for the guy who gets to be in charge of our own country. Then we complained about the guy who won the election. But there’s a time and a place for nonchalance, and I don’t think this is it. The power is in your hands.
We are about to choose the man or woman who will be responsible for thousands of policemen. It’s a little more important than choosing this year’s course rep. If we don’t help ourselves make an informed decision, and drag our feet to the nearest polling station, then I doubt anyone is going to care if you rant and rave about it in your next Facebook status. Have a skim-read through the online manifestos (they do exist), pick your favourite mugshot. Just don’t come crying to me when it turns out that Gary Glitter’s best mate has just been elected as the Police Commissioner for North Yorkshire and she’s looking for you.