Leading article: An unnecessary set of elections


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The Independent Online

The misconceived plans to hold elections for police commissioners are in trouble before a single vote is cast.

The Independent reports today that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, is concerned about the quality of candidates presenting themselves for these important and powerful posts. It is a worrying, and yet unsurprising, development. Effective policing is reliant on expertise and some experience of how the organisation works. Without such qualifications, commissioners will struggle with the increasingly complex demands placed on police officers.

Police accountability has always been awkward, not least because central government takes an interest in and, in some cases, has a degree of control over policing decisions. Now senior police officers face the bleak prospect of being held to account by elected commissioners, in some cases figures without any obvious qualification for the job – or indeed much authority, as they will almost certainly be elected on dismally low turnouts this November.

The Coalition faces almost unbearable pressures on many fronts, not all of them of its own making. Elected police commissioners is currently a sleeping issue, but one that will soon awake. At a time of severe cuts in police numbers it will add to the burdens on the Government. And this time it will be a burden of the Coalition's own making.