APCC Chair, David Lloyd PCC marks five years since the first election of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in 2012:
Five years on from the election of the first Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales, now is a fitting moment to reflect on some of our achievements since the role was created, the challenges facing British policing today and the real opportunities ahead to build on our best accomplishments and deliver transformative change for the public we serve.
British policing at its best has always been defined by the Peelian principle of policing by consent. When voting at the ballot box in 2012, and again in 2016, the British people breathed new life into this ambitious principle. This was not an uncontroversial election. And yet we can now say with confidence that the concerns raised at the time, as sincere as they were, have not materialised. Operational independence in policing is as strong as ever; the public’s priorities have been heard without the undue politicisation of the police, and PCCs maintain a constructive and respectful relationship with their chiefs. And far from being too big a role for just one person to bear, PCCs have managed to expand their brief and work effectively with partners to drive positive change beyond policing; in criminal justice, mental health, and the wider emergency services.
And through it all the central principle still stands; it can only be right that we who make the big decisions about the future of policing, the use of public money, and the commissioning of services, are answerable directly to the public.
Through the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, which I am proud to Chair, PCCs have found a way to speak with one voice on a shared vision for the future of policing, and we are now effectively harnessing the wealth of expertise and strength amongst our PCCs by having national leads on such important issues as supporting victims of crime, mental health, hate crime and drug and alcohol abuse. On so many issues now, we are helping to shape the agenda and making the everyday concerns of the public heard in the corridors of power. And by working closely with our partners in the police, we are making sure the reality of policing in England and Wales today is made clear to decision makers in Parliament – including on the critical issue of police funding.
PCCs have always been resolutely focused on reform and efficiency, both locally and nationally. PCCs have led the way on sharing back-office functions to drive down costs, allowing for far greater investment in front-line services than would otherwise have been possible. Through our representation on the new National Commercial Board we will continue to be strong advocates for greater progress in collaborative procurement, shared services and estates in every force area. However, we won’t flinch from our duty to protect the public, and that is why we have been outlining precisely why real terms protection for the police is now essential if we are to ensure the resilience of our police, at a time when the nature of crime is changing rapidly, and we continue to face the terrible threat of international and domestic terrorism.
As elected representatives, accountability and integrity are at the forefront of our shared vision. One of the key concerns that dents public confidence in the police is misconduct and the handling of complaints. The APCC worked closely with the College of Policing to develop the new Code of Force Ethics, which in 2014 formalised the public’s rightly high expectations of professionalism and integrity at every level of policing. PCCs also pressed the Government to change the bureaucratic, complex and remote police misconduct regime; efforts which led to the reforms introduced in the 2017 Policing and Crime Act. Under these reforms, PCCs will have the opportunity to play a far greater role, whether by providing a consistent point of contact for complainants, managing the appeals process locally or ensuring the swift resolution of complaints which fall outside the formal police misconduct system. Whilst we will continue to make the case for a more radical overhaul of the complaints system, these changes are an important first step to making the system simpler and more responsive to the public.
2017 saw another landmark change in governance, as my colleague PFCC Roger Hirst (Essex) became the UK’s first Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner. I look forward to reflecting on the progress he and others have made on this agenda in five years’ time. And yet, even now, the collaboration of emergency services has become ‘standard practice in policing’, as reported by HMICFRS. PCCs have been instrumental in driving forward this agenda by setting expectations for Chief Constables to work together in their Police and Crime Plans, as well as making use of legislation from the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. Earlier this year, the introduction of the Policing and Crime Act further aided PCCs by placing a duty to collaborate on police, fire and ambulance services. Put simply, collaboration is supporting emergency services to deliver effective and efficient responses to shared risks and public demand, and with continued support this will spark further opportunities for improvement, so we can all deliver the best possible public service.
And we have a great ambition to take reform beyond the emergency services; making good on our name as Police and Crime Commissioners. There are few areas of crime today than can be tackled by policing alone, and it is only by bringing providers together that we can make a real difference in our communities. PCCs are uniquely well placed to lead partnership working that reaches across public services, just as so many of the problems we need to tackle do. We can already see the positive difference that PCCs can make in this space, particularly in the criminal justice system. Since we took on greater involvement in support services, PCCs have worked hard to put the victim as the heart of the local criminal justice system. We need to build on this progress as local leaders, with greater devolution of responsibilities and powers, looking afresh at crime prevention and the long-term problem of serial reoffending.
Guiding my thinking as we move forward will be the solemn oath my colleagues and I all swore upon our election – to serve the people without fear or favour, to act with integrity and transparency, to ensure the police are able to cut crime and protect the public, and to give a voice to the public in all that we do. After five years the office of Police and Crime Commissioner has done so much to bring democratic accountability into the heart of British policing, and it is my firm conviction that this is only the beginning.