The Police Chiefs' Blog
One year on from the start of the first lockdown
Police Chiefs' Blog: Martin Hewitt - Chief Constables Council January 2021
What have we learnt about dealing with mental health during the pandemic?
DCC Julie Cooke discusses the importance of Pride
How we can stop female genital mutilations
Data Protection Day
Police Chiefs' Blog: Martin Hewitt - Chief Constables Council January 2020
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers
Drones and the police
Next >>>

 

This week will finally see the most fundamental change to police accountability and governance for many years come into place. Chief constables are committed to forging constructive relationships with incoming PCCs. They may not agree on everything, but nor should they! For PCCs to properly hold their force to account, a degree of tension is both necessary and healthy. My sense is that the vast majority of disagreements will be settled through sensible conversations, to move forward in a way which benefits our communities.

So, when newly elected PCCs sit down at their desks – which must be after taking their oath of impartiality, what then? What might a Commissioner’s in-tray look like on a Monday morning?

Initially, there is a huge job to do, even for those Commissioners with current knowledge of policing, to understand our business. Chief Constables and their teams will be working hard to help them grip the complexity of modern policing as soon as possible, to make sure any disparity between aspirations and what is deliverable can be worked out where necessary, and to help Commissioners hit the ground running in a role which is extremely wide in scope and complexity.

Indeed, listening to and reflecting the views of their communities may in itself prove a considerable practical challenge. The demographics of force areas vary widely, from urban to rural, ethnic make-up and social class. Crime issues and community needs will vary too in line with this. An individual charged with representing equally the multiple needs of their communities will have some difficult decisions to make when it comes to strategy and setting priorities.

There will also be an amount of ‘housekeeping’ involved as new PCCs get to know their staff, appoint a chief executive and chief financial officer, a deputy, and work out exactly how their offices will operate moving forward. Will they take on additional staff to handle administration or media? How will PCCs create their own staffing arrangements without leaving their force under-resourced? And there will be existing business inherited from police authorities including new and ongoing complaints from the public, which will also require attention.

High on the to-do list will be producing both a police and crime plan and a budget. New PCCs have 10 weeks to do this and outgoing police authorities will already have begun preparing for the task. Of course depending on who is elected, the new Commissioner may or may not want to build on those foundations. The first weeks in office will see a full diary as PCCs work to engage not only with their Chief Constable, but partners across the community. PCCs will need to live up to the wider crime and justice remit of their role, working with third sector bodies, local authorities and district councils, bringing people together and moving into 2013 considering funding requests.

Two years into the comprehensive spending review, savings have already been made by cutting ‘excess fat’ in policing – through efficiency gains, service reductions and one-off savings where possible. With two years left to go, there is still uncertainty as to the amount of funding forces will receive in future. The Chancellor’s Autumn budget statement has been delayed until 5th December and details of the police funding settlement and damping rules for 2012 are expected around 21st December. PCCs may well be on the receiving end of further cuts. As Commissioners will be required to present budget and crime and police plans to their Police and Crime Panels (PCPs) by the beginning of February, assessing all this within just over a month will be no mean feat. PCCs may find that current force models for aspects of policing may not be sustainable moving forward – this will of course impact greatly upon any strategic plans they may have.

Elected with the purpose of strengthening a local voice in policing, PCCs will also need to consider the national responsibilities for policing the role also entails. Protecting communities from crime efficiently and effectively requires local policing connected all the way up to regional and national levels. Less visible issues such as cyber, organised and international crime, public order and firearms may not feature in local priorities but are crucial nonetheless. Equally important will be the need to ensure an individual force’s contribution to the national policing effort is not overlooked. All benefit from the logic and efficiency of agreeing evidence-based operational policing approaches once at the national level, rather than 44 times across each force. And there will unavoidably be times when officers on the beat may be sent to another part of the country to support policing in times of national need.

Crucially, a PCC will also have the weighty responsibility of appointing a Chief Constable where a Chief is temporary or about to retire. As it has been reported, a number of new PCCs will face this very issue as soon as they take up their post. It’s vital that a robust and transparent recruitment process is developed, so that the most talented within the service step up to take these critical jobs. Deciding how to make these appointments is in the hands of the PCCs, but they will be wise to think carefully and take advice as a matter of priority.

All in all, a pretty full workload, all carried out under the watchful eye of the media, PCP, and the communities that have elected them. Over the next few weeks we will start to learn much more about PCCs as this momentous reform beds in.