Major reforms needed to improve public confidence in PCCs
05 May 2014
The Home Affairs Committee publishes progress report on Police and Crime Commissioners.
The Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons has today published its report, Police and Crime Commissioners: progress to date. The Committee concludes that it is still too early to determine whether the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) has been a success, and that given the low turn-out for their election, the concept of police and crime commissioners is still on probation.
Strengthening the role of police and crime panels
- The Committee finds that to date panels have struggled to understand their powers and define their role.
- The role of panels should be strengthened and extended in scrutinising the removal, resignation or retirement of a chief constable, where this has been instigated by the PCC;
- Panels should have the power of veto over the appointment of a deputy commissioner, where they have not stood for election alongside the commissioner;
Training for new commissioners before taking office
- Many of the difficulties that commissioners have faced could have been avoided given greater opportunity to find their feet before starting the job;
- New Commissioners should have a transition period of one month between election and taking office.
An electoral mandate for deputy commissioners
- The Committee believes that the appointment of deputies must be transparent and instil public confidence. As such, it recommends that at the 2016 elections commissioners should be allowed to name their intended deputy so they are elected on the same ticket.
Target setting by commissioners
- The Committee raises concern that almost half of commissioners were using targets to hold their chief constable to account, despite strong evidence that target-setting has resulted in the manipulation of police-recorded crime statistics. The Report recommends that all such commissioners should review urgently the auditing arrangements they have in place to ensure such targets operate as intended.
The removal of chief constables
- The law must be changed to state clearly the grounds on which a chief constable may be suspended or removed;
- Establishing a clear system of safeguards where a chief constable is suspended, similar to those already in place when they face suspension on a conduct matter;
- The development of a third party mediation process for instances where the relationship between a commissioner and chief constable breaks down, compulsory training on which should be included during the induction period for commissioners.
Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:
“The concept of police and crime commissioners is still very much on probation. Some Commissioners have fallen well short of the public’s expectations and urgent reforms are needed to ensure that this concept does not put at risk public trust and engagement in the police, the very objectives for which PCCs were brought in.
The hiring of deputies and the decision to remove chief constables are critical decisions for local communities and it is vital that the amount of the scrutiny applied to commissioners by police and crime panels increases. Panels’ powers must be strengthened and extended to ensure that any decision to remove a chief constable is the right one for the public. Only this will provide full public confidence.
Deputies should not be cronies that are given their job on the basis of nepotism. By electing them on the same ticket we ensure that the public will be able to have their say on someone who often acts with the powers of the Commissioner.
Though we welcome good working relationships between chief constables and PCCs, the arrangement should never be too cosy. The setting of targets by PCCs must not promote the manipulation of crime figures and all PCCs should review their auditing arrangements immediately.”
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