Open Letter from Chair of Gwent Police Authority regarding the Future of Police Accountability

22nd August 2011

We were witnesses to an undignified battle between the Home Secretary and Police Chiefs across the country each claiming they were in charge. We may need to get used to these events as next May the public of England and Wales will be electing Police and Crime Commissioners on a possible political ticket.

There is a distinct possibility that such public confrontations may be played out more frequently in the media. It is absolutely right that Chief Constables make operational decisions that can mean the difference between life and death. They do this based on their knowledge, expertise and considerable experience.

Police Authorities provide the much needed middle ground between a politicised police force and one which is unaccountable. They consist of elected representatives and independent members, providing a wide range of skills and expertise, local knowledge and understanding of the diversity within their communities. I believe that this is a combination that works well. The government claims that the public hear little about their Police Authority and this is systematic of their failure to hold the police to account.

However, a recent inspection of 22 out of 43 authorities by HM Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC), (which included Gwent and South Wales) showed that none failed to hold their Force to account and over 97% of 110 HMIC assessments were scored Excellent, Good or Adequate. (The inspection of the remaining 21 authorities didn't take place). Police Authorities surely provide a democratic overview and I believe appropriate governance for policing.

Yours sincerely
Mrs P E Davies, OBE, DL, JP
Chair, Gwent Police Authority