In 2012, elections to appoint 41 Police and Crime Commissioners across the nation were described as the biggest shake-up to policing for 50 years, and cost in excess of £75million.
It should have been a popular move - after all, a dedicated PCC can focus the maintenance of an effective police force to the benefit of their area while remaining entirely accountable due to the fact the post is elected. And besides, many people’s cultural reference point for the role is Commissioner Gordon from Batman - making the job at least a little bit cool.
However, when the elections rolled around, the polling stations reported the lowest voter turn-out since the Second World War - it seemed the concept had not quite captured the public’s imaginations to the desired extent.
Even if our affections weren’t grabbed, our attentions soon would be, when one newly appointed PCC in particular began to hit the headlines for largely the wrong reasons. Already in the run-up to the vote, Ann Barnes, standing for the role in Kent, had threatened legal action after an opponent cast aspersions on the origin of her funding. Then, after she was successfully appointed (on a turn-out of just 16.3 per cent), she endured a rocky first year on the job to say the least.
She is perhaps best known for a Twitter-based scandal (she appointed 17-year-old Paris Brown as the UK’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner, only for Brown to end up resigning after Tweets emerged which appeared racist, violent and homophobic in nature), as well as her official, presidential-style campervan, and her distinctive anti-political manner of connecting with people.
However, an age when most people have lost faith in politicians, is that a bad thing? Is she having trouble fitting in to the cut-and-thrust world of politics, or is she seen as something of a breath of fresh air among her constituents?
This Cutting Edge documentary aims to find out, as it follows Barnes as she reaches out to the people of Kent with her regular ‘Ann Force One’ bus tours of the county, ultimately hoping to get the police force to become more visible on the streets and more transparent in their dealings, in order to win back the trust of the people.
Whether this will end up working for or against her remains to be seen, but through the access granted to this documentary we should get an insight.
Meet the police commissioner, Channel 4, Thursday, 9pm