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REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRST YEAR OF POLICE & CRIME COMMISSIONERS

15 Nov

It is now months since the government delivered a master class in how not to run an election. An election which failed to ignite interest from the public. An election which resulted in a national average turn out of 14.9% and some getting less.

So not an auspicious start. Particularly given that research shows the elections cost £75m for some 5.3m votes equating to a cost of around £14 per vote or more.

Or viewed another way it was a success because at least a third of the positions went to those not belonging to the 2 main political parties and instead classed as independent.  Independent candidates won 29% of the positions, Labour won 32%  and the Conservatives won 39%.It could be argued that the independents offer a body of pluralist thought and challenge outside the party structures.

A year after the election the BBC ran the headline  ‘One in three unaware’ of police and crime commissioner’

But they did run this helpful Q&A

Stories like this show the depth of the challenge.

But since the elections many PCCs have sought to become high profile. Nationally we have seen PCCs go head to head with their Chief Constables. One lost a legal challenge to a suspension, one was successful in removing his Chief Constable. We’ve seen allegations over expenses and cronyism.

And we’ve seen little acknowledgement of the achievements of Police Authorities and the Police Committees they themselves replaced.

It was disappointing to see that the anniversary statement of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners made no mention of the efforts and dedication at time of adversity of police officers, police staff, specials and volunteers to deliver a policing service across the country.

Some PCCs have deputies others do not. Some appear to speak and act like Wonder Woman or Superman. But they are human and work extremely long hours.

So what happens to policing if one of those without a deputy can no longer be a PCC because of illness or an alternative career choice?

Policing is too important to be exposed to risk like this. After all we’ve seen some PCCs speak out about the inability of the police service to take any more cuts and the dangers of privatising the probation service. But much of this seems demarcated along party political lines.

If you use a search engine to find PCC successes you don’t find many tangible costed results. But it is certainly true that visibility has increased. Nationally it would be interesting to see the Association of PCCs publish work on exactly how many members of the public attended Police Authority meetings and exactly how many attend PCC public meetings.

PCCs have made a difference in the approach to anti social behaviour. PCCs have helped raise awareness of the problems faced by police in relation to mental health issues.

But if something will have a positive or negative impact on policing shouldn’t all PCCs regardless of political hue be working with their own Association of Police & Crime Commissioners to ensure the public have a voice?

The fact they don’t reflects the real flaw in the system. At present PCCs are in theory held accountable by the electorate. But they are also scrutinised by the Police & Crime Panels.

PCPs may be a good thing but across the country many members feel impotent and lacking in any real power.

We know PCCs work long hours and are learning about policing. But as they call for accountability and transparency in policing they must realise that there needs to likewise be reform of the arrangements for themselves.

The next 12months will no doubt be as interesting as the last as we approach a general election. We now need to all work together to imbed, tweak and improve the role and accountability of PCCs in policing.

A recent blog  entitled PCCs: A year is a long time in politics gives due consideration to a variety of sources and in chief I concur with both the glad and sad positions taken by the author.

We need to build on the good work done by Police Authorities. We can build on the undoubted impetus provided for further good work by many of the PCCs and we can hopefully aim to get a turnout higher than those voting in X Factor when we have the next PCC elections.

But quite frankly this in my view is a step too far.

you can read an earlier version of this article here the comments from readers are interesting

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Posted by on November 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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