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Sue Who?

Police figureMany Bristolians are by now aware that next year will present a sterling opportunity to vote out George Ferguson, but in addition to the mayoral and council elections the good people of Avon and Somerset will turn out in droves to vote for their Police and Crime Commissioner. Well, that’s the plan anyway.

In actual fact, the last time such an election was held only 19% of those who could vote did so. The national turnout was even lower, at 15%. A good basis on which to boost interest in this election might be to establish who our ‘PCC’ is, and what she does for us.

The woman in question is Sue Mountstevens, a former magistrate who won election to the post in 2012 as an independent candidate, beating the Conservatives into second place. Her role has been to set out a local strategy for policing and to hold the chief constable to account. Undertaking the latter of these two duties has garnered Mountstevens the most attention from the media in the past four years due to her appointment, then her controversial sacking, of chief constable Nick Gargan over allegations of misconduct.

One could be forgiven for wondering whether the exercise of electing PCCs is worth the trouble, given that aside from the Nick Gargan controversy the role of Police and Crime Commissioner has generated very little interest at all. However, contrary to popular opinion, in 2012 the introduction of politics into policing has not turned into a tribal, party political waste of time, but has generally delivered some much needed transparency and enabled an accountable individual to focus crime prevention where it’s really needed. What’s more, it seems to be working – The Office for National Statistics recorded the lowest level of crime last year since records began in 1981. With these encouraging national statistics coming through, the role of PCC looks set to stay in the face of opposition, since politicians will not want to be seen to be messing with a winning system.