Police and Crime Commissioners

In November PCC’S will be elected, this is a radical and completely different perspective to our traditional policing in this country for over a hundred years.

What is the current system of policing the police and managing their effectiveness and efficiency?

Briefly, The Chief Constable is ultimately responsible for the operational efficiency of the force and a group of people known as the Police Authority select the Chief Constable and provide oversight of the actions of the Chief and his/her team. The question of the diversity of top teams in terms of Female/ BME/ Gay etc is a subject for another discussion.  This has served us well and although not perfect, then as we can all appreciate nothing ever is and perhaps a previous criticism may have been that PA’s did not exercise the authority which was incumbent in them. I have personally trained lots of PA members and it constantly astounded me that when I said that they could sack a Chief Constable this fact often received the retort, Yes but we’d never do that.

Why the change? My understanding is that the coalition want to engage the community and let them feel that they have a stake in the running of their police service and what better way than to elect the person to provide an oversight of individual forces.

I believe this is fundamentally flawed.

Sir Robert Peel laid out nine fundamental principles on which our police service was born and are still relevant today. They are summarised as:-

Prevent Crime and Disorder with the consent and co-operation of the public which may diminish when excessive force is used.

The police act impartially and physical force is only used when persuasion, advice and warning is insufficient.

The police remain citizens and are paid to pay full time attention to duties which are incumbent on all citizens to maintain community welfare and existence.

The police must never usurp the judiciary in their actions and the test of effectiveness and efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder not police action.

These things are enshrined in Case Law.

” I hold it to be the duty of the Commissioner of Police, as it is to every Chief Constable  to enforce the law of the land.He must take steps to post his men that crimes may be detected and that honest citizens may go about their affairs in peace.He must decide whether or not suspected persons are to be prosecuted and if need be bring the prosecution or see that it is brought, but in all these things he is the servant of no-one save the law itself. No minister of the crown can tell him that he must or must not keep observation on this place or that or that he must or must not prosecute this man or that one. Nor can any Police Authority tell him so. The responsibility for law enforcement lies on him. He is answerable to the law and the law alone.

(R v Metropolitan Police Commissioner at 769 ) Police Federation website.

We now have the situation which will happen in November this year and is anathema to impartial policing, of individuals allied to political parties having authority and governance over Chief Constables and Commissioners. The amelioration of political alliances which was achieved by the old Police Authority will now be in the hands of one person who will hold direct sway over the person who manages the operational effectiveness and efficiency of our local police service. In the same way that the Mayor of London managed to traduce Ian Blair and cause his resignation almost without recourse to the rest of the authority, this will be replicated throughout the country. (Whether you agreed with Blair or not his operational autonomy should have remained paramount and it’s the Authority’s job to manage him) 

ACPO are saying nothing to remonstrate against this change publicly and politicians are rubbing their hands with glee because for so long they have wanted this opportunity to politically influence the service in favour of their political aspirations and re-electability.

The turnout is fully expected to be very low for this poll and so we will be in the unenviable position of having politicians being elected with a lower mandate than they get to enter parliament dragging our service from pillar to post on each new political fad, in the inevitable name of the “people”. 

Lastly, there are over 40 Police Forces and each PCC costs over GBP50K p.a. This may be less than the cost of a police authority, I do not have the figures and would welcome a response, however it is still very expensive and the quality of candidates has not been of the best and I question the motives of some candidates such as John Prescott a Lord of the Realm applying to be a PCC. Why? Why? Why?

Perhaps you maybe able to tell me because the rhetoric just does not ring true.

In conclusion.

The case has not been made out to change other than political expediency.

The cost is too high.

The candidates are not of the appropriate calibre to modernise and innovate our service in the face of the extreme austerity change occurring.

This has not been approved by a formal Royal Commission but by an unelected coalition government. 

The Police Authorities can be improved to the point where this is unnecessary and I note recent improvements where Police Authorities are belatedly being far more robust with Chief Constables and disciplining  more effectively.

2 Responses

  1. A very thoughtful and well-written piece. Who are likely to be the constituencies/ power groups that bother to turn out to vote for PCCs? Whoever they are, the nature of political representation means that whoever is elected will respond to the wishes of these constituencies.

    • said on July 25, 2013

      Thank you Martin for taking the time and trouble to respond. I value your feedback


Leave a Reply to Tod