Police Crime Commissioners – what might be in their manifestos?

August 31, 2011 6:24 am

Author:

Share this Article

PoliceBy Jon Harvey

Events of the last few weeks have thrown into relief the issue of police leadership and just how political their job can be at times. Debates have been raging at the highest political levels and widely discussed in the media about accountability and professional practice. In the middle of this maelstrom, the government has stuck with its plans to introduce politically elected Police Crime Commissioners. Whilst not yet on the statute book, we can probably expect the legislation to be whipped through parliament as swiftly as possible so that the elections for these new police leaders can happen as planned next May.

All this has prompted me to think about the issues that might be addressed in manifestos of the candidates – and what the electors might be interested to know about, before casting their votes. I would expect the local police officers and staff would have an interest too.

So here is my ‘template’ manifesto for this new kind of political police leader:

There is a huge and complex matter about the distinction between operational & strategic command and political direction and accountability. I would expect that any candidate for the position of one of the PCCs to make very clear just what kind of influence they expect to bring to and exert on the local police service. Some of this of course will be determined by statute, but any candidate worth their salt will be able to describe how they plan to play their part in the leadership of the local police service and not just in times of crisis, but also day to day.

One of the criticisms of the existing police authorities is that they have not managed to engage with their publics well enough. Some PAs have been better than others of course but the overall level of awareness of their existence and role is not as high as it should be – certainly in the eyes of the government. Therefore, a candidate for the role of PCC, should be able to articulate just what they will do differently and how their engagement with local communities will be a step change for the better. They will need to state clearly, in my opinion, how they will fairly represent the views of the many diverse communities who will be electing them.

As we have seen evidence of in recent times, there is the massive issue about deployment of resources. I would expect any candidate for the post of a local Police Crime Commissioner to say what will guide them in influencing how the police service allocates its resources. Again this cannot only be during times of crisis but also (and more importantly) during the everyday job of tackling crime. I would hope that the candidates will address the conundrum already being faced by police services up and down the country: how do you balance resources between areas where people are most at risk of harm (and where people are often less vocal about the need for ‘bobbies on the beat’) with areas where crime is much lower but fear and concern about crime and anti-social behaviour is much higher (and often articulated loudly).

Crime prevention is often something of a poor cousin in police circles. It might be said by many officers and staff that the needs to respond to calls for help will always be paramount and therefore long term measures to prevent crime, anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime will naturally come second. However I think the issue goes deeper than this and touches on some quite embedded elements of police culture. I would hope that the manifestos of the PCC candidates will tackle this issue head on and say how they plan to boost prevention and work strategically with the police (and many other partner agencies) to do what can be done to create communities that are sustainably infused with the Queen’s Peace.

Finally, there is the matter of professional practice. Unlike many other public professions (and I am thinking here of medicine, teaching, probation, social work and nursing), policing practice is near the beginning of being an evidence based pursuit. Often what police officers do is determined by precedence or custom and practice rather than evidence based research. Just as you would not expect to be offered a treatment by a doctor that had not been reliably tested, it is also the case that police practice should be similarly informed by what works (and what does not). The Neyroud report published earlier this year went into length about the need to establish policing as profession based on evidence based practice. In line with this, surely any candidate for the post of PCC (who will be responsible for the effective, efficient and economic running of local police service) must be able to express a view about the vital matter. I hope that every manifesto published will discuss the importance of building police practice around good research and everyday learning.

No doubt the manifestos will mention many other matters in addition to these – ones that reflect the particular concerns of local people and the crime challenges in the local police area. These could be very interesting political campaigns.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Reaching new communities

    Reaching new communities

    This article is from Our Labour, Our Communities – a pamphlet of 10 essays by Labour PPCs, published by LabourList in partnership with Lisa Nandy MP. I am proud to be standing as the candidate for my hometown of Hastings & Rye, but I am equally proud to stand as a parliamentary candidate who is also half Chinese and half British. My mother is Chinese Malaysian and came to this country 41 years ago to be a nurse in Hastings and continues to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Cutting Trident will be the price of support in a hung parliament. That’s the news reported from a meeting of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green leaders this week. With Labour’s slim lead and the SNP and Green vote threatening to impact on its share, this is a serious issue. Labour’s policy clearly states, ‘Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a clear body […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Lord Ashcroft has told him he shouldn’t have done it in 2010. Lynton Crosby has told him not to do it in 2015. It’s no surprise that David Cameron is trying to wriggle out of televised leader debates during the General Election – even though he has said he is willing to take part “in principle”. Time perhaps to dust off one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite barbs “He’s frit.” Neil Kinnock tried it in 1992 to try to goad John Major into […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    By Stephen Timms MP and Ian Murray MP The Christmas period reminds us that modern life can be busy, hurried and demanding. The pressures of work, demands of family life and hectic Christmas schedules can prove stretching as we juggle competing demands. Increasingly the need for flexible work is driven by the complex shape of people’s lives; as parents go to work, struggle to make ends meet, perform career roles, take their children to school and activities and try and carve […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    As the start of the long campaign begins today, curbing the amount of money parties can spend between now and May 7th, Labour MP Jon Ashworth has sought to clarify what precautions are being taken to ensure publicly-funded government advisers are not using their time campaigning. Ashworth has sent a letter to senior civil servant Jeremy Heywood, asking him to answer a number of questions about what kind of campaigning activity was permitted and undertaken by special advisers (SpAds) in […]

    Read more →