Labour’s police and crime commissioners have defended their work - as the party considers whether to axe their jobs.
The Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) for Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland forces, all Labour politicians, highlighted their role as “the elected voice of the people” in a series of essays published by the Fabian Society, a think-tank affiliated to Labour.
Northumbria PCC Vera Baird, former MP for Redcar who served as a minister in Gordon Brown’s Government, wrote: “The police are, for the first time, being overseen intrusively at command level by an elected figure who can challenge any tendency, in such a powerful organisation, to prefer institutional self-interest over popular need.”
It comes as Labour considers whether to include a pledge to abolish Police and Crime Commissioners in its general election manifesto.
Lord Stevens, the former chief constable of Northumbria Police and later commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, called for the abolition of PCCs last year.
He chaired an inquiry commissioned by Labour leader Ed Miliband which concluded police should instead be overseen by boards of council leaders.
And last month Labour’s Local Government Innovation Taskforce, set up by Mr Miliband to consider what the next general election manifesto should say about the future of councils, backed the conclusion.
The taskforce, which including Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council and chair of the North East Combined Authority, said a single person could not represent the diverse communities served by each police force.
Despite these findings, the position of the Labour leadership is that it is considering the future of PCCs and has made no decision.
Ms Baird, who also wrote an article defending the work of PCCs for the left-wing New Statesman magazine, said the essays were designed to contribute to the debate.
She wrote: “Commissioners are the elected voice of the people. We are required to consult our communities to ascertain what they want from the police and then to use this to formulate police and crime plans.”
She added: “Our control of the local policing budget ensures that what the people want does happen and represents a significant shift of power towards the public.”
In his contribution to the Fabian pamphlet, Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger said: “The PCC role is somewhat misunderstood both in terms of range of activities
we’re involved in, and the good practice and ground-breaking work undertaken beyond previous limitations of police authorities.”
Durham PCC Ron Hogg highlighted his work helping the force improve the way it dealt with offenders who use illegal drugs.
Labour opposed the introduction of PCCs by the Coalition government but does not currently have a policy on whether they should stay.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said in a recent speech: “We didn’t support the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats’ introduction of PCCs. We have always argued that the system has too few checks and balances. And we’re clear substantial reforms will be needed.
“Lord Stevens’ independent review recommended options for reform. And Jack Dromey, our shadow policing minister is consulting now on what those reforms should be, which we will set out later.”