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OPINION:

Why, aged 22, I’m running to be Warwickshire’s PCC

Ben Twomey, Independent candidate in this May's Warwickshire PCC elections, sets out his eight 'clear and comprehensive' campaign promises

Democracy can only work when people are given a real choice between candidates. Democracy works best when it includes all members of our society and offers a platform for a broad range of perspectives and experiences. Democracy relies on the participation of the public, without which elections would have no meaning.

Having worked for two Police and Crime Commissioners, I am well-placed to understand the opportunities and limitations of the role. Across these offices, in Warwickshire and County Durham, I have been the lead for drug and alcohol policy, organised crime, youth engagement, ICT and emergency services collaboration.

If we apply each of these tests to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections, it is hard to escape their overwhelming failure, so far, to be truly democratic. That is part of why, at 22 years old, I am running as an independent candidate to be Warwickshire’s PCC.

I intend to bring a new perspective to the debate on crime, and as an independent candidate can make a clear promise that I will do all in my power to keep party-politics out of policing. One basic fact speaks volumes on the democratic deficit present in the sphere of policing; that is, nationally, 18-24 year olds commit the most crime and are the most common victims of crime. In short, people like me are most likely to come into contact with the police and yet have almost no representation whatsoever in the way their county is policed.

This is not limited to positions of power. Unlike many people my age (or any age for that matter), I have followed the PCC elections of 2012 and of today with much interest. A common thread in my experience, and played out previously at the ballot box, is that most candidates have cynically ignored younger voters and made little to no attempt to involve them in the process.

I want to engage with all groups in the community, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, sexuality or anything else. Every citizen of Warwickshire has a civil right to vote and a human right to free speech. But if nobody seeks their vote, and nobody listens to what they have to say, these rights become nothing more than empty ideals.

People my age don’t run in elections like this…that much is obvious. We don’t often vote in them either. Those in power can speculate all day as to why this is the case but until this generation is engaged in a meaningful dialogue then there is no chance of greater understanding, and even less chance of improving the situation.

Having worked for two Police and Crime Commissioners, I am well-placed to understand the opportunities and limitations of the role. Across these offices, in Warwickshire and County Durham, I have been the lead for drug and alcohol policy, organised crime, youth engagement, ICT and emergency services collaboration. If I get elected in May, I will hit the ground running, and get straight to work on making our county a safer place for all.

It is time for a fresh approach. Twenty years ago people were saying we needed more police officers. Today, candidates across the country say we need more police officers. Twenty years from now, the call will no doubt be the same. This is fundamentally short-sighted.

What we really need are fewer criminals. Prevention of crime will be my top priority – if we can break the cycle of reoffending and stop young people from going down the wrong path, we will secure our safety well into the future. We need to be forward-thinking and tackle crime at its source. This is the only way to effectively reduce the number of victims in Warwickshire, and yet it is routinely ignored by those in power.

As citizens of Warwickshire we must reclaim our right to a say in the policing of our county. There are policy areas that need refocusing, like drugs and alcohol, and those that need prioritising, like cyber-crime and domestic abuse. Tired of the empty statements and meaningless promises that have come to characterise modern politics, I have instead developed a set of eight clear and comprehensive promises that I will deliver if elected as PCC:

  • I will focus on preventing crimes, not simply reacting to them.
  • I will seek to break the age-crime curve, where 18-24 year olds commit the most crime and are the most common victims of crime.
  • I will keep party-politics out of policing.
  • I will work hard to bring hidden abuse into the open where it can be challenged and stopped.
  • I will give the people of Warwickshire a voice in the policing and criminal justice matters of their county.
  • I will refocus drug policy by getting addicts into recovery and tackling the organised criminals who profit from misery.
  • I will ensure cyber-crime is a priority and that Warwickshire can face this modern and growing threat.
  • I will pursue policies based on evidence that have been proven to work.

You can find out more about how I will fulfil these promises at www.ben-twomey.co.uk

I have been greatly encouraged by the support received from friends, colleagues and strangers alike when telling them of my candidacy. In light of that, I’ll leave you with the comments of two esteemed professionals that I have been delighted to learn a great deal from.

“I would have greatly welcomed Ben’s support, insights and knowledge when I was a Chief Constable” said Tom Lloyd QPM, former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary. David Clarke OBE, former Treasurer to the Warwickshire and West Mercia PCCs, added that “Ben has a refreshingly clear focus on the societal and financial benefits of early intervention.”

I am not only honoured to have these endorsements, but I think they reveal more clearly the widespread appetite – even among senior figures in policing – for a fresh approach.

Ben Twomey’s Manifesto:

I will focus on preventing crimes, not simply reacting to them. Fewer criminals means less crime, so targeting resources towards at-risk groups will always be my priority. I will look in particular at strengthening youth groups and organisations, promoting empathy through education and restorative justice, tackling drug and alcohol issues at the earliest opportunity, and providing training and work experience to offer paths away from crime. I will also ensure those with mental health issues are treated with dignity and diverted away from the criminal justice system wherever possible.

I will seek to break the age-crime curve, where 18-24 year olds commit the most crime and are the most common victims of crime. Despite this age group being most likely to come into contact with the police, people like me have no representation whatsoever in policing matters. Preventing crimes is an important part of changing this, but offering positive role models and meaningful engagement is also essential. We all want our children to inherit a safer world, breaking the age-crime curve is a clear way to make that happen.

I will keep party-politics out of policing. It is wrong to have a Conservative Police Force or a Labour Police Force – we need an independent Police Force that reflects and serves all the people of Warwickshire. Using the police as a political football has caused enough damage from the outside – only a candidate free from party loyalties can guarantee their independence from within. I will always be accountable to you, the citizens of Warwickshire, not to a Westminster-based party leadership.

I will work hard to bring hidden abuse into the open where it can be challenged and stopped. There are many forms of abuse – domestic abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse and racial abuse to name but a few – but they all share the tendency to take place behind closed doors. We need to break down these barriers by encouraging more victims to come forward and helping communities to spot the signs of abuse.

I will give the people of Warwickshire a voice in the policing and criminal justice matters of their county. I will set up a citizens’ panel that reflects our community and will be directly involved in policy. I will also organise bimonthly meetings open to all citizens to discuss specific topics and to offer you the chance to set the agenda for my work. As for my online activity, I will seek a dialogue by better using technology to enable people to have their say. No matter where you are in the county, and regardless of your background, I will be your representative and accessible to you.

I will refocus drug policy by getting addicts into recovery and tackling the organised criminals who profit from misery. For every £1 we spend on drug treatment, we save ourselves at least £2.50 in associated crime and healthcare costs down the line. It is time for the mature discussion on drug policy that politicians have denied the public for so long. Our current approach is criminalising children and making criminals millionaires – something I intend to put a stop to.

I will ensure cyber-crime is a priority and that Warwickshire can face this modern and growing threat. A county-wide study I worked on last year revealed that an estimated 82,000 Warwickshire residents were victims of cyber-crime in 2015, and over 25,000 of us suffered a financial loss as a result. However, in the latest three months of published figures, Warwickshire police recorded just 62 cyber-crimes. Cyber-crime is without doubt the most widespread emerging threat to the people of Warwickshire, and I will act quickly to create policies that effectively tackle it.

I will pursue policies based on evidence that have been proven to work. Unlike party politicians who are trapped by the ‘party line’, I will always place greater value on what works and what is best for local people. I will work closely with the College of Policing and academic institutions in the region to develop a clear evidence-base to inform our actions.


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