Police and crime commissioners: crib sheet
This post is just to an accompaniment to my piece about police and crime commissioners. It rounds up information I’ve collected on the new body that I hope others will find useful…
Police and crime commissioners will take over responsibility for overseeing police forces from police authorities, following their election on the 15th of November this year, 2012. They were established in law in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, which received royal assent in September last year (2011).
The Home Office defends this move by claiming that the elected PCCs will be directly accountable to their constituents for their policing needs, whereas authorities had little public accountability. The legislation establishes that the PCCs will hold to account chief constables in 41 police force areas in England and Wales – other than the Metropolitan Police Area and the City of London Police Area, for which separate arrangements are already in place.
The PCCs will:-
- Be in charge of the Police Fund, setting the policing precept in the council tax.
- Set up a five-year Police and Crime Plan, setting objectives for policing and how performance will be measured.
- Publish annual reports setting out how they’re doing against the plan’s aims.
- Have the power to appoint and dismiss chief constables.
- Be able to collaborate with other police-force areas, with partner agencies (councils and other statutory services).
- Be able to publish information about the police force – pertaining to its performance.
- Be expected to consult with the public and with the victims of crime in drawing up their Police and Crime Plan and in their budgeting.
(This is a cut-down list – for the full list of what PCCs can do see here on this PDF of the Policing Protocol Order.)
What they won’t do:-
- The Home Office makes clear that the PCCs don’t run the police – that’s the job of chief constables. It is, rather, to ‘hold the police to account’ on behalf of the people. (This is an important distinction, which could easily get lost when there is more media attention – as some journalists are likely to try to describe the relationship between the police and the PCCs in a brief, simple way that might not always be entirely accurate.)
- They won’t be allowed to interfere with anything that’s police-force business. The Policing Protocol Order (which sets out the responsibilities of PCCs, PCPs and Police forces) says: “The PCC must not fetter with the operational independence of the police force and the chief constable who leads it.”
They won’t manage day-to-day financial matters for the police force.
Each PCC will be overseen by a Police and Crime Panel (PCP) – and there are separate arrangements for their appointment in England and Wales. PCPs will have the power to exercise vetoes (by two-thirds majority) over the level of the precept and the decision the PCC makes on a new chief constable, as well as a number of other powers to:-
- Review the draft Police and Crime Plan, which the PCC (in consultation with the chief constable) has drawn up, and make recommendations.
- Review the annual report drawn up by the PCC that sets out how they are doing against their objectives.
- Seek the opinion of the HMIC when a PCC intends to dismiss a chief constable.
- To require the PCC to attend panels to answer questions.