HAC has considered the work of PCCs during their first 18 months in office and its report makes recommendations for future development of both the roles of PCCs and Police and Crime Panels (PCP). The report concludes that it is too early to say whether the introduction of PCCs has been a success, but that PCCs do appear to have introduced ‘a greater clarity of leadership for policing within their areas, and are increasingly recognised by the public as accountable for the strategic direction of their police force.’
Collaborative working: Many PCCs have made good efforts to collaborate with a wide range of external agencies, including other blue light services, local authorities, mental health services, and between police forces themselves. However, many police forces could do more to exploit the full potential of collaboration and PCCs and Chief Constables whose police forces currently deliver less than 10% of their business through collaboration should prioritise work in this area. The report emphasises the importance of collaborative working as a means of saving money and providing a higher standard of policing.
Transparency: Many PCCs are failing to comply with the Electoral Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011, which requires PCCs to publish certain information about themselves and their work. HAC considers that this information ‘is vital in allowing voters to assess the effectiveness of their PCCs’ and recommends that this issue is pursued with the relevant PCC offices.
Target setting and crime statistics: Recent media reports (following evidence from a whistleblower from the Metropolitan Police Service) have undermined public confidence in the reliability of crime data. HAC notes that the pressure to meet targets is often provided as the reason for manipulating such data and they are therefore concerned that many PCCs have set their respective police forces particular targets or performances measures. They recommend that PCCs ensure that targets do not encourage the manipulation of crime data and that appropriate auditing arrangements are in place.
Holding chief constables to account: The evidence presented to HAC suggested that PCCs have developed a range of informal and formal methods to holding the chief constable to account. It recommends that PCCs ensure that decision making is transparent and are careful not to interfere in the operational independence of chief constables.
The role of the PCP: HAC considers that it is necessary for the PCC and the PCP to have a constructive working relationship and that the PCP should act as a ‘critical friend’ to the PCC. Noting that many PCPs struggle to understand their powers, HAC recommends that the Home Office provides guidance to PCPs on their role and remit.
The removal of chief constables: HAC concludes that the law must be changed to state clearly the grounds on which a chief constable may be suspended or removed, that there must be 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 and that there should be the development of a third party mediation process for where the relationship between a PCC and chief constable breaks down (with compulsory training for PCCs).
The report also looks at other important issues such as: public perception of PCCs; the appointment of deputy and assistant commissioners; the transfer of commissioning of services for victims to PCCs and strengthening the role of PCPs.
A full copy of the report can be found here.