People used to say that you could always tell if a football referee had had a good game if the spectators didn’t notice his involvement in the match.

The logic for this is the ref got all the decisions right, allowed the game to flow and did nothing to spark controversy.

I suspect that logic could also be applied to police and crime commissioners. We know they’re there, we know they are making decisions, we know they have power and authority but we don’t really want or need to notice them going about their business.

So it comes as no surprise that the electorate of Cheshire decided enough is enough and voted Labour PCC David Keane out of office.

Now I’m not saying Mr Keane did badly during his five years in office (it should have been four years but the election was put back a year because of the pandemic).

I don’t know how he was viewed by his officers or how effectively he managed the county’s police budget. But, just like that football referee, he was noticed – and not in a good way.

This list is not exclusive but here are some of the ‘issues’ that put Mr Keane squarely under public scrutiny.

He had an office in the Cheshire Police HQ in Winsford but decided to move the PCC office to a police station in Stockton Heath, Warrington. He said the move would save the police £50,000 a year but critics suggested that as Mr Keane lived in Warrington, there may have been other reasons for the move.

Then we come to the appointment of his deputy commissioner, a £50,000 a year job that went to the daughter of friends, fellow Warrington borough councillors. That one rumbled on and on until she left the post a year later and was not replaced in a ‘restructure’.

There were other issues but the ‘big one’ was the shambles of the tribunal against former chief constable Simon Byrne who was accused of bullying.

Mr Byrne was suspended from Cheshire Police after being accused of bullying and humiliating staff between May 2014 and March 2017.

Mr Keane brought a case of gross misconduct against the chief but a hugely costly tribunal hearing found no allegations of gross misconduct or misconduct were proved.

And to rub salt into the wounds, the tribunal panel said the case, which cost £350,000 in public funds, ‘could and should have been avoided’.

So fast forward to this year’s election and the people of Cheshire decided they wanted a change, so step forward Conservative candidate John Dwyer who was elected to the top job five years after losing the role.

Mr Dwyer returns to the post after second preference votes saw him beat Mr Keane by 111,962 votes overall to Mr Keane’s 99,463.

A former assistant chief constable, Mr Dwyer was elected as Cheshire’s first PCC in 2012.

Interestingly, in his acceptance speech, Mr Dwyer attempted to downplay the importance of this being a political post.

He said: “We’ve run this election on political lines because that’s how elections operate but I’ve made it clear during my campaign this role is neutral.

“From here on, the politics stops. From here on, I will represent every person in this county no matter which way they voted.”

“It’s important that they understand my neutrality to them – and I want to be sure they can come to me anytime they like to discuss issues they are having with the local police service.

“I will act as their conduit to the chief constable, so please don’t hesitate to make contact with me, no matter how you voted this time. This job is neutral, I’m going to do a really good job for all of you.”

But here’s the thing. Do we need a police and crime commissioner at all? I would wholeheartedly suggest we don’t.

Prior to 2012, the body that oversaw our police was the Cheshire Police Authority, which was made up of elected representatives of the county’s local authorities.

To be honest, I don’t recall the authority ever becoming embroiled in controversy and as its members represented all the political parties, it was politically neutral.

The reason for disbanding police authorities and replacing them with commissioners came about from the 2010 general election campaign.

Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems outlined plans to replace or reform the existing police authorities.

They had concerns about the perceived lack of accountability of police authorities to the communities they served.

It didn’t work though, did it? Just how accountable has David Keane been over the past five years? How accountable will John Dwyer be?

It is a miserably failed and expensive experiment that has politicised policing at great cost, both in financial and reputational terms.

Perhaps it’s time to turn back the clock, scrap PCCs and go back to police authorities.

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