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Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 13:49 UK

Policing the police

Lucinda Adam
Lucinda Adam
The Politics Show
South East

The police are there to keep us in line, but they are also a service to us funded by tax contributions.

In Kent, the policing budget for 2009-10 is £277 million and a third of that budget comes from every resident contributing £51.58 via their council tax.

So are we getting value for money for the service we pay for? And what influence do we have on how the police operate - especially if things go wrong?

Police Van
The way that people hold the police to account is through 'police authorities'

Currently, the system by which people hold the police to account is through local police authorities - a body of elected councillors and selected members of the public.

Typically a shire police authority will have 17 members, 9 of these will be drawn from elected councillors who are appointed by a panel.

This is to ensure that the numbers reflect votes cast for political parties.

Open selection

The remainder, independent members, are appointed through an open selection process, and at least one should be a magistrate.

Ideally a police authority's membership will ensure a complementary set of skills and an appropriate balance between members.

It should also have links to local communities and include those with senior level professional expertise.

Together these will ensure proper oversight, monitoring and governance of policing.

For example, following tough criticism of Kent Police's handling of protestors at the 2008 Climate Camp event at the site of Kingsnorth Power Station, Kent Police Authority has highlighted 26 areas of concern to be addressed.

Police election

Conservative MEP for the South East Daniel Hannan does not think the system goes far enough.

Daniel Hannan, MEP
Daniel Hannan believes that chief constables should be elected by voters

In fact, he suggests Chief Constables, like Mike Fuller in Kent, should be directly elected by voters - just as Sheriffs are in America.

He sets out details of his vision for revolutionising the way police are held to account in his book 'The Plan'.

He and co-author Douglas Carswell MP for Harwich and Clacton say elected Chief Constables should take control of policing priorities and the Crown Prosecution System, including sentencing guidelines and the prison service.

But in research commissioned by The Politics Show South East, elected Police Chief Constables were not popular with respondents.

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