Letter to Prospect Magazine

Jessica de Grazia (Prospect, February 2011) works hard to debunk New York's success in cutting crime.  But the facts speak for themselves: rapidly falling crime under two successive mayors, including more recently over a decade when police numbers have fallen, too.   

There are certainly useful lessons to learn from the stronger accountability which direct democracy brings to the governance of policing.  But we don't have to look across the Atlantic.  How many Londoners would like to see an invisible authority replace the Mayor's responsibility for policing?   

De Grazia asserts that elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be "toothless" and "unrestrained".  Not so.  We must strike the right balance between introducing checks while allowing elected Commissioners to exercise their mandate.  But Police and Crime Panels will have full powers of scrutiny, including the right to veto key proposals.   

De Grazia's proposal to "beef up" police authorities completely misses the point.  These are invisible bodies made up of appointees.  In the end, politicians must hold the police to account on behalf of the people.  The issue is whether forces answer to Whitehall or to the local communities they are meant to serve.  It's strange that so many democrats are so wary of democracy, but I believe we can and should trust the people.

Michelle Taylor