AN outgoing police and crime commissioner has urged voters to take their chance to influence criminal justice policies in Thursday’s elections.

Arfon Jones is standing down as the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner after five years, having been elected to be the local policing watchdog as a Plaid Cymru candidate in 2016.

All four PCC posts in Wales, overseeing the country’s four police forces and with the power to hire and fire chief constables, are up for election this Thursday, May 6.

The elections were due to be held last May but were postponed due to the pandemic and are now taking place on the same day as the Senedd election.

Jones said the posts have been successful in allowing a wider influence on the criminal justice system in Wales and England, which has traditionally been dominated by the Home Office. That means PCCs with different views on criminal justice to those held by the government of the day, can put different practices in place at a local level.

“It is important people vote in Police and Crime Commissioner elections, it’s in our interest to have safer communities where vulnerable people are protected and we need elect the person most likely to provide the resources to have a strong policing presence, in my view a preventative approach, others might want a different approach.

"It depends which of the two approaches you take on crime and criminality.”

The former police inspector of 30 years’ experience, said the current PCCs in Wales back what he describes as “preventative” policing, which seeks to address the root causes of crime. Jones sees these as societal problems often linked to trauma or adverse childhood experiences.

“Politics is all about vision and values. I have a progressive view on policing and criminal justice which is different perhaps to a conservative view, which sees criminality of being one of selfishness.

“We see it as a lot of people who commit crime have had traumatic upbringings, adverse childhood experiences, a lot of it do with the social environment.

“Those are basically the two values that drive policing – one that sees criminals as selfish individuals, and the other that sees them as people who have had a tough upbringing and have got traumatic experiences.”

Jones, who isn’t seeking re-election, acknowledges his views probably were not shared by the majority of his colleagues while he was a serving officer but he thinks there has been a cultural shift and that directly-elected PCCs are a part of that.

“I would say amongst Welsh police officers the culture is changing, and that is because the four PCCs and four forces have agreed on a public health approach to policing, which looks at trauma and adverse childhood experiences.

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"We try to address the underlying causes of offending rather than the symptoms, and we try to break the cycle of offending and to rehabilitate people in the community and that is an ethos throughout Wales.

“Policing is changing and it’s changing because of progressive as PCCs, who are pushing the agenda, but we are coming up against a very sort of dogmatic dinosaurs within the Home Office and within the Home Secretary and the policing minister so I think it’s not going to be so easy going forward,” he said.

“The direction of travel, as I see it, over the next few years while Priti Patel is Home Secretary is for more centralisation, more control and more direction from the Home Office.

“She’s looking at coming back to bean-counting crimes and performance management, something that was done away with by Theresa May in 2010.

“Bean-counting crimes, rather than identifying offenders and addressing the underlying causes, is a backward step in policing.”

How PCCs make a difference

POLICE and crime commissioners were introduced in 2012 and billed as having with the power to hire and fire chief constables. They replaced the former police authorities that operated across Wales and England (outside London), and which were made up of nominated local councillors and government appointed members.

The police authorities were seen as lacking a public profile and It was hoped a directly-elected PCC would lead to more people taking an interest in the governance of their local police force.

There are four PCCs in Wales matching the country’s four police force areas. Those are Gwent, the smallest force in Wales; South Wales Police which includes Cardiff and Swansea; North Wales Police and Dyfed-Powys Police which is the largest force area in Wales or England and also the most rural.

The PCCs work with their chief constables to set local policing priorities and also, by consulting with the public and other bodies such as councils and health boards, agree a local policing plan. The PCC holds the chief constable to account to ensure the force is working towards the agreed priorities.

The policing precept, which is added to council tax bills and pays towards local policing, is also proposed by the PCC who has responsibility for the force’s budget. A small police and crime panel, with members appointed by unitary authorities in the force area, has a vital role in scrutinising and supporting each PCC.

If a PCC feels there has been a failure to follow the priorities they can fire their chief constable. However they must not interfere in operational policing matters which are the responsibility of the chief constable with the independence of the service protected by legislation.

The last PCC elections were held in 2016, also alongside the Welsh election, when the posts were taken by two Plaid Cymru and two Labour candidates.

The PCC candidates you can vote for on May 6:

Dyfed Powys 

Burns, Jon - Conservative

Llywelyn, Dafydd - Plaid Cymru

Preston, Tomos Glyn - Liberal Democrat

Thompson, Philippa Ann - Labour

Gwent 

Cushing, Donna - Plaid Cymru

Cuthbert, Jeff - Labour

Harley, Paul William - Independent

Jarvis, Hannah Elizabeth - Conservative

Jones, Clayton Francis - Gwlad

Miller, John Edmunds - Liberal Democrat

North Wales

Astbury, Pat - Conservative

Dunbobbin, Andy - Labour

Griffith, Eleanor Ann - Plaid Cymru

Wilkins, Lisa Ashley - Liberal Democrat

Young, Mark John - Independent

South Wales 

Baker, Mike - Independent

Gallagher, Steve - Conservative

John, Gail Moyra - Propel

Littlemore, Callum James - Liberal Democrat

Marshall, Nadine Rachel - Plaid Cymru

Michael, Alun Edward - Labour