Someone’s gotta run the country. I went through reasons you might not want to vote here. Let’s assume you still think, on balance, that it’s important to decide who will have the power of life or life imprisonment over you and your fellow do-badders. How you gon’ do it? You don’ know shi’ ‘bout tha cops, ‘cept tha Zach n NWA want us to “fuck them”.
What steps can you take to learn more and decide who’s worthy of your ballot?
I gonna walk you tru my research and decision-making process, so you informed, yo!
1. Know Your Enemy
…by which I mean, “know what you’re actually looking for in a Police and Crime Commissioner, that you might choose he who best exemplifies your views.”
2. People of the Sun
…by which I mean, “look at your PCC candidates’ information critically, and see what they represent and how qualified they are”.
3. Bullet to the Head
…by which I mean, “contact them to cut through the inevitable bullshit and see whether they actually know anything.”
4. Bulls on Parade
…vote like a boss.
Deciding on your principles
I do not have a rubric to help you decide your principles. There’s lots to read, if you like. You might think that a certain kind of crime is worse and deserves more resources (e.g. drugs, domestic, street, gang, political, white-collar [!]) or you might think that there need to be more/fewer police on the streets, more emphasis on community, more emphasis on punishment, a restated death penalty, stronger free speech, stronger right to force people to worship impossible-to-prove deities. Your call.
For me, defining priorities isn’t too hard. I take a horribly liberal line on crime, (Foucauldian, if you must know) and conclude that criminal actions are largely the result of society, not the individual. So I think punishment is meaningless, deterrence clearly hasn’t worked, so rehabilitation must be the way forwards. I also think the police have gotten away with some naughtiness and negligence in the past. Therefore, here are things I’d ideally like to see in a PCC candidate:
– Drug policy more in line with science, including bringing the punishments and ratings of ecstasy and marijuana in line with their health and social threats relative to alcohol and tobacco, and the prison sentences possible for possession, and a greater emphasis on rehabilitation for criminals.
– Substantial awareness of gender issues and patriarchy, including the realities of domestic abuse, the unhelpful attitudes of ‘slut’ decried by SlutWalk, discrimination and violence towards LGBTQ people and institutionalised bias against them, reproductive rights, prosecution difficulties
– Reformist line considering institutionalised racial sentiments and police malpractice
– Commitments to at least consider rehabilitative justice, considering how Scandinavian countries which have such policies have considerably lower re-offense rates and consequently cheaper crime/justice records.
– Interest in the wider causes of crime including inequality, discrimination, poor education and psychological issues; ideally commitment to policies similar to those of Graham Allen MP (Early Intervention)
Now, no candidate in Warwickshire has a manifesto even remotely like this. But this is at least an ideal to judge them all by – a Platonic Form of a PCC Manifesto, if you will. They are only shadows…
Firstly you probably want to figure out who your candidates are. You might’ve received fliers, but they might not be comprehensive. The dear old Beeb is comprehensive. Oh those splendid buggers.
The BBC summarises their positions, and links you to http://www.choosemypcc.org.uk/ where you’ll find their “Election Statements”. More importantly, you get their names, so you can google them and see their websites. These websites generally do (and certainly should) contain detailed manifestoes and explanations of each candidate’s experience, qualifications and reasoning.
However, you might find assessing them rather difficult. I certainly did, and I’m formidably intelligent. The problem is, it looks like they are all saying the same thing. As previously mentioned, all the Warwickshire candidates want to ‘cut crime’. Oh. Brilliant. They also want to increase police numbers (despite the 12+% budgetary cuts).
If you try, you will find reading the manifestoes very boring. I spiced them up by listening to a Dubstep remix of the Mario theme tune. Blew my tiny mind.
Anyhow, I was able to deploy my rubric. The Indy candidate looked most open to rehabilitative justice and ‘nice’ social efforts, and the Tory looked least reasonable by supporting a ‘two strikes = life sentence’ policy for ‘very serious sexual or violent crime’. Prick.
But, given the extent to which I was reading between the lines and lines of meaningless platitudes, I thought I ought to do more digging. So I decided to…
Contact the Candidates
I asked all three roughly the same questions regarding their stances on my ‘principles’, and for clarifications on their fluffier pledges.
The next day, the Indy had replied. He was quite humble, explaining that he didn’t know a great deal but did know the relevant authorities, and was very willing to listen to them when elected.
Guess what else?
The other candidates never got back to me. This was three weeks ago.
My vote is decided.
Edited 14:35, 15/11/2012
In the end, my criticisms of the process itself overwhelmed my preference for the Indy. I wrote “I’m so spoiled” on by ballot, before talking to the kind officials in our otherwise-empty hall, who informed me that my village turnout was 8%, trouncing Rugby, which is c.3%.