A Fair Cop? Elected Police Commissioners, Democracy and Local Accountability

November 16, 2010   By Olivier Roth

Proposals to make new elected Police Commissioners more accountable to broader local democratic government and their local communities are published in a new NLGN paper.

The New Local Government Network has drawn up a list of proposals and safeguards to create better working practices between the Commissioners and Police and Crime Panels (PCPs), the body established to hold the new elected post to account. Amongst them include:

  • Imposing a duty on Police Commissioners to regularly engage with partners
  • Giving elected councillors, through PCPs, a role to influence the budget-setting process
  • Allowing PCPs the power of veto, requiring a two-third majority, over certain key decisions, such as setting the budget and the appointment of chief constables
  • Handing over Police Commissioner powers to newly elected city mayors
  • Allowing chief constables to appeal to PCPs should they feel their operational independence is threatened.

The Coalition Government has promised to transfer power “back to the people” – through the direct election of ‘Police and Crime Commissioners. Their powers will include setting local policing priorities; holding the Chief Constable to account and setting the policing budget.

The report also warns against greater politicisation of local law enforcement. Author Olivier Roth said:

“While directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners should improve police visibility and give citizens a channel through which they can address their concerns, there is a risk that electoral considerations could influence the actions and focus of Police and Crime Commissioners, and that these will become too politicised. As a repository of local democracy, and a link to partners responsible for tackling the broader drivers of crime, Police and Crime Panels should play an important part in this process, and have their functions commensurately increased”.

The report also argues that:

“Police and Crime Commissioners will therefore have to work in partnership with local authorities and other public bodies, with citizens and communities, and with the newly created National Crime Agency in order to deliver positive policing outcomes. Police and Crime Commissioners should not be able to circumvent these partnership workings, many of which tackle the drivers of crime, and should therefore be required to consult and work with these entities on a regular basis. This engagement should provide further opportunities for neighbourhoods and citizens to participate in the improvement of crime outcomes.”

November 16, 2010
Authored by

Olivier Roth
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