What do police and crime commissioners do?
Introduction – My name is John Smith. I am standing as an Independent candidate in Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections to be held on 7 May 2020 in the Avon and Somerset area. A lot of people have asked me what PCCs do and how they can vote so I have produced this short guide which is my overview of the role based on my 8 years’ experience leading a PCC’s office.
Overview – There are 40 PCCs across England Wales – one for each police area except London and Manchester where the local mayor does the job. PCCs are directly elected by local residents every 4 years – residents vote in the same way as at general or council elections – see my website https://www.johnsmith4pcc.com/how-do-i-vote/
PCCs have 3 key roles:
1 Acting as the board of governors (as for a school) for the local police;
2 Showing local leadership to ensure local public sector bodies and other partners work together to deliver the best policing and criminal justice services;
3 Public voice – listening to victims and local residents and making sure their views are addressed in delivering police and criminal justice services.
PCCs are not responsible for operational policing decisions – that is the responsibility of the Chief Constable who is operationally independent so decides who to arrest or investigate and how to deploy officers.
PCCs’ decisions are scrutinised by local Police and Crime Panels made up of at least one councillor from each local authority and at least 2 independents see local Panel website: http://www.avonandsomersetpoliceandcrimepanel.org.uk/
In some areas, PCCs also take on the board of governors’ role for Fire and Rescue Services – this is not possible in Avon and Somerset because the local fire services do not have the same geography.
More detail on the PCC roles and the PCC oath are set out below:
Acting as the board of governors for the police – PCCs are responsible for there being an efficient and effective police force in their area – the best analogy is that they act like the board of governors for a school for the local police – in particular PCCs:
- Must consult on and publish a Police and Crime Plan setting priorities for the police and hold the Chief Constable to account for delivering the Plan;
- Receive the Home Office police grant (about 60% of the total) and set the level of, and receive, police local council tax funding – the annual revenue budget in Avon and Somerset is just over £300 million;
- Appoint, suspend and if necessary dismiss the Chief Constable;
- Contribute to national and international policing capabilities;
- Provide transparent information to local people including performance and financial reports and an annual report.
Showing local leadership – the PCC is responsible for working with partners to reduce crime and disorder, commission services especially victim support and to secure the best possible local criminal justice services. This means working with public sector bodies but also local charities and businesses who play an important role. Examples include working with:
- Local authorities, probation, fire and public health partners to increase community safety and reduce anti-social behaviour, drug use, burglary, hate crime and domestic abuse;
- Health partners on issues such as mental health, child abuse, rape and serious sexual assault;
- Criminal justice partners like the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts to provide efficient justice;
- Probation, prison and local authorities to reduce reoffending.
Voluntary sector agencies also play a key role in our area in addressing all these issues.
Public Voice – Listening to victims and local residents – the most important part of the PCC’s role is to consult with, and listen to, local people about what policing and criminal justice services they want. The PCC is the bridge between local people and the police and other agencies. This includes receiving emails and complaints (the current PCC Sue Mountstevens receives over 200 emails a month from local people), asking local people to review how the police are delivering services such as through the local Independent Residents’ Panel which looks at complaints and the Scrutiny of Police Powers Panel which looks at stop and search and Taser and other use of force, and the Independent Custody Visitors who do unannounced visits to police custody to check on detainees’ welfare as well as more formal consultations and surveys. More details of Sue’s Panels are here:
The PCC oath – each PCC is required to take an oath on taking office – this is a good summary of the role and responsibilities:
“I do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will serve all the people of Police Force Area in the office of police and crime commissioner without fear or favour. I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public. I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice. I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public. I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest, nor encourage any police action save that which is lawful and justified within the bounds of this office.”
Other sources – The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners has produced a short video explaining about the PCC role: https://youtu.be/s0CK89k8hn4
See the Electoral Commission for more on the vote: https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/types-elections/police-and-crime-commissioners
See the local Office of the PCC site on the local election: https://aspccelections.co.uk/