On the 15th of November, polling stations across the country will be open. Everyone in England and Wales (except for Londoners) will be able to cast their votes to decide who will be the Police and Crime Commissioner for their local police force. Candidates from political parties and independents have already begun their campaigns. These will be the first elections of this kind in the UK, as the government aims to make the police more accountable.
StopWatch is an organisation dedicated to ensuring that the police do not abuse their stop and search powers, which is an issue that will dominate the elections. Many people feel that the police use these powers too often, and that the police stop and search people belonging to ethnic minorities disproportionately. Black people are 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched, even though white people are more likely to consume drugs.
StopWatch fears that, because of the PCCs, policing will become politicised and professionals will be hindered in their work. The Home Office insists that the Chief Constables will remain in control of their staff. But the PCCs will be able to appoint and dismiss Chief Constables, as well as control police budgets and how much policing (if any) is handed over to the private sector.
Voter turnout is expected to be low, which means that small groups with extreme views could do well. However this also means that getting involved could make a real difference.