Police have important powers which they need to keep us safe but they must also accept responsibility for exercising them. The tragic death of George Floyd while in police custody in the United States of America shows what can go wrong when police misuse their powers. I will continue existing accountability and transparency mechanisms and develop them, including scrutiny panels, so local people can review police use of force, stop and search and feedback their views to officers to ultimately help improve police accountability across Avon and Somerset.
Climate change is a real and pressing issue, and the police force can and should ensure they are responding to this challenge in whatever ways they can. I will bring forward existing plans to introduce electric vehicles into the Avon and Somerset Police fleet and to obtain more energy from renewable sources.
There has been a string of high profile local protests in Avon and Somerset throughout 2020 and early 2021. For example, the Black Lives Matter protest in summer 2020 or the anti-lockdown protest in November 2020. The police have a duty to uphold lawful protest which they rightly take extremely seriously. This responsibility must also be balanced against their other duties including to uphold the law and keep the public safe. This tension has been more apparent than usual during the pandemic. It is important that the police are transparent and objective in their plans to enable protests and treat all potential protests in the same way regardless of the cause involved.
The pandemic has been especially tough on young people, some of whom may be in abusive homes, unable to attend school or to socialise with their peers. The lack of online access in some homes has also exacerbated inequality. It is important that the police listen to young people and address issues that matter to them. I will work with existing groups such as the Youth Parliament to make sure that young people’s voices are heard and where appropriate acted on by the police.
Criminal Justice System funding cuts
The UK has one of the best Criminal Justice Systems in the world but a decade of austerity and cuts from central Government have put it under severe strain. This has been shown very clearly during the pandemic. Local people are not well served by the current system and I will lobby central Government to replace the lost investment in these services and work with partners to ensure they work together effectively whilst respecting judicial and prosecutorial independence.