When Ann Barnes, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Kent, announced last week she had appointed a Youth Commissioner, she would never have thought the wheels would come off in such a spectacular way. Despite the events of the last few days, Ms Barnes still intends to press ahead and find a replacement for Paris Brown, the Youth Commissioner she has just lost.
Of course we want to see young people getting involved in the fight against crime in their communities. It's what all public-spirited citizens should be doing. Many Police officers build-up valuable trust among younger people by regularly visiting youth clubs and schools. Teachers and volunteer youth club workers play an important part in assisting too. Paying a Youth PCC a salary of £15K a year though, and giving her expenses, is a ridiculous waste of money and nothing more than expensive tokenism.
Too many PCCs have fallen into this trap. They have failed to grasp the purpose of their job which is to hold the Police to account on behalf of the public. Police authorities failed to do this properly. With a democratically elected commissioner, we know who to approach when things go wrong. It is not the role of a PCC to get themselves in the newspapers every other day, which is what many of them seem to be doing.
I have already commented on Adam Simmonds, PCC for Northamptonshire, who immediately after being elected appointed four assistants, including an Assistant Commissioner for Drugs Eradication. Of course we want to see drugs taken away from our streets. They blight our communities and are a major cause of crime in some areas, but this is the operational responsibility of the Police. The Police are experienced in this area and what they do not need is a bureaucrat on an inflated salary standing over them, micro managing their every move. Judge them on results. If drug related crime is rising, ask them why, and make sure they come up with a plan that works. That is what Adam Simmonds should be doing instead of creating more jobs for the boys.
Despite the debacle in Kent, Matthew Grove, PCC for Humberside, felt the need to issue a press release about his intentions. When it arrived in my inbox barely an hour and a half after the sad news that Baroness Thatcher had passed away, my initial reaction was to wonder what bad news they were trying to bury. After reading the release, I released it didn't really say much at all.
Mr Grove would like to create the post of Youth Ambassador, although ideally he would like four ambassadors - one for every council that makes up the Humberside Police area. Although a salary will not be paid, we don't know how much travel will be involved; nor do we know if the Youth Ambassador(s) will be someone of Paris Brown's age, or someone much older - a youth worker, for example. Just by looking at the press release, it doesn't seem to be a well thought out plan. On face value, it looks like it's just another gimmick to make us think Mr Grove is doing something. Like many PCCs across the country, Mr Grove wants to be seen as active. What he and they do not seem to understand is if they are doing their job properly, they don't need to issue constant press releases and pose on street corners for photographs. The results will speak for themselves.
So please PCCs, cut out the gimmicks. Just get on with doing the job we have elected you to do and hold the Police to account on our behalf. No-one expected you to be perfect, however some of you are making a much better fist of the job than others.