Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ten questions for potential police and crime commissioners

Guardian Public published my article on this a couple of days ago - and you can read it here:

If you would like to respond to the article (as the Guardian article is not open to comments) - please post them below. I, and perhaps others, will be interested to read what you say. Thanks


  1. Anonymous2/2/12 01:13

    One question that I feel is missing is: How do / will you deal with local authorities who are failing to fulfil their Community Safety Strategy objectives.

    Bearing in mind that a huge chunk of what is anticipated will be dealt with is anti-social behaviour by "prioritising what communities want" dealt with and as large sections of anti-social behaviour can and more importantly should be being dealt with by local authorities through the commitments made in their Community Safety Strategies PCC's being unable to 'deal with' failing council officers makes the role impossible.

  2. Thanks for your comment anon. I am sure there are many questions missing! I sincerely hope that the electoral process results in the candidates being asked some very tough questions. The electorate deserves only the best people elected into these positions.

    To address your point, the guidance to the Act states:

    “Subsection (1) requires a police and crime commissioner or the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to have regard, in carrying out their functions, to the relevant priorities of each of the bodies in the police area that are members of community safety partnerships formed under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.These bodies are the police, the probation services, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities and NHS Primary Care Trusts.”


    “Subsection (2) requires the police and crime commissioner or the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (as the case may be) and bodies that are members of community safety partnerships to co-operate with each other in the exercise of their respective functions, except devolved Welsh functions.”

    ... so in that respect, the PCCs will have to mindful of what local CSPs are doing and work closely with them.

    "Police and Crime commissioners will not be members of Community Safety Partnerships." unlike the existing police authorities”

    Interestingly the guidance goes on to explain "Paragraphs 2 and 3 amend those provisions in section 5 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 dealing with mergers of Community Safety Partnerships in England. These provisions apply only in relation to local government areas in England and currently the power to merge rests with the Secretary of State. These paragraphs provide instead for the mergers to take place by agreement between the responsible authorities and police and crime commissioner. The Secretary of State will retain a role in agreeing to mergers which involve more than one police area (see the new section 5A(5) inserted by paragraph 3)"

    and moreover....

    "Paragraph 4 amends section 6 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (formulation and implementation of strategies). The amendments allow regulations to confer functions on a police and crime commissioner in England in relation to strategies for any local government area that lies in their force area. This includes provision for the commissioner to arrange meetings to assist development and implementation of strategies; being chair of any such meetings; and being able to specify attendees which may include representatives of the responsible authorities comprising a Community Safety Partnership in their force area."

    and finally to mention

    "Section 9 gives a police and crime commissioner and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime the power to award a crime and disorder reduction grant to any person in order to secure or contribute to securing crime and disorder reduction in the police area. The grant may be subject to any conditions that the commissioner may deem appropriate."

    So there is room here for much debate and cooperation (and the opposite!).

    This is just a cursory analysis - but you are right to highlight this as an area requiring more investigation. Thanks again for raising it. is where all the quotes come from.

  3. Anonymous2/2/12 11:04

    Hi Jon the reason for anon was because that was the closest profile choice I could see.

    Although there is a lot of emphasis on scope for co-operation the Community Safety Partnerships have (supposedly) had the same remit of "we're in this together & should work together".

    When you go to any PACT or Area Committee meeting most crime related issues are put down as Police to deal when most probably wouldn't be 'Police issues' if tools an powers used to deal with things related to 'broken window syndrome' had been used.

    While I can't see how a PCC can go to a council and say your anti-social behaviour officer is failing so I am removing them from their position I can see Local Authorities continuing to say X is within the remit of the PCC now and the consequence of the scapegoat that comes with it.



  4. Hi Andy

    I am not sure what to predict in such instances. Some of this will centre on the relationship between the PCCs and their Police Crime Panels which will be owned and run by the local government bodies on the patch. I think part of the way forward will come from the clear distinction between the political and resource power of the PCCs and the professional and management power of the Chief Constables. this space!

  5. Answers 1 to 5 for John Harvey from a prospective Police & Crime Commissioner

    The campaign started in North Wales a couple of weeks ago, so here are some answers I prepared earlier!

    1. The police precept: It’s never a good idea to increase prices for a product whilst simultaneously reducing its quality. Police Authorities should either maintain service levels and increase the precept this year, or hold it constant and reduce the level service (cutting posts, closing stations etc.). But not charge more for an inferior service like the North Wales Police Authority did last year – council tax payers simply won’t understand, and it’s far too complicated to try and explain how costs are shared by central and local government. Yes I would have taken a one-off grant last year (obviously!).

    2. Commissioning: the primary role of the Police & Crime Commissioner is to ‘commission’, which means to procure things on behalf of. That means creating specifications based on the aspirations, wants and needs of the people who live and work in your huge constituency, turning those into the Police and Crime Plan – a kind a bureaucratic taser with which to stun under-performing Chief Constables – and then getting on with tendering for the award of contracts, or finding more participatory ways to involve the community with the decision-making process. Biggest risks : community can’t be bothered to get involved, Chief Constable and/or Police & Crime Panel digs heels in.

    3. Constructive relationship with Chief Constable: how do you make someone accountable through you if at the same time they are supposed to retain their cherished ‘operational independence’?! Does not compute – answers on a postcard please. A range of behavioural techniques to gain compliance I suppose.

    4. Optimal deployment: oops, this looks like an operational matter – although there is a clear case for computer simulation of alternative scenarios, the Police & Crime Commissioner would have to be content with knowledge that any kind of real-time optimising algorithm was being deployed, even if it turns out to be inspired guesswork by senior officers.

    5. Relationship with news media: this is the most interesting question in the list and would need to be addressed on day 1. Apart from the obvious problems caused by the press reporting crime statistics without due care and attention, and corrupt payments for information, it would be desirable for the Police Commissioner not to issue rival statements on operational matters, and instead develop a protocol for joint statements.

  6. Answers 6 to 10 for John Harvey from a prospective Police & Crime Commissioner

    The campaign started in North Wales a couple of weeks ago, so here are some more answers I prepared earlier!

    6. Partnerships: yes this is problematic, but also a symptom of poor consultation with communities at an earlier stage, which is exactly what the new commissioning function is designed to solve.

    7. Fear of crime: electoral promises are never a good idea (!) but we do need to find a happy medium between the left – who have tended to exaggerate the importance of emotional responses to crime in the communities they represent since the early 1980s – and the right, who tend to place an overly rational, dispassionate emphasis on how crime should be dealt with. Instead we need to harness the collective wisdom of the community.

    8. National priorities: the Home Office should be invited to translate their Shadow Strategic Policing Requirement into projects with a national emphasis in your area, alongside all other stakeholder groups. There is no reason why the scope and size of these national priorities should not be quantified in the Police and Crime Plan alongside local priorities.

    9. Yes, policing is complex! For too long we have accepted the symbolic “no useful measures of policing” argument, but the reality is that smart measures simply need to be further developed and benchmarked between forces.

    10. Bringing democratic accountability to life: great question, since I have just embarked on disseminating the OpenStrategies citizen engagement methodology to as many diverse stakeholders in North Wales as possible, with precisely this goal in mind! Join me in Llandudno on Saturday 24 March 2012 for ‘Let’s work out a Police & Crime Plan for North Wales’ – I can promise you a public engagement event the like of which has never previously been seen on earth ....

    Am I worth my salt?!

  7. Thanks for your answers Richard - most illuminating.

    I am very interested in your event of 24/3/12. Is there a website that you can refer me (and others) to? I am looking forward to the PCC candidates getting out on the road and organising a whole number of ways to engage people before the election - if only to let people know there ~is~ an election!

    As for whether you are worth your salt - that will have to be a decision for the electors of North Wales!

  8. Ah - I see - details are here after clicking your name:

    Good luck with the event

  9. For those interested - here is a little background to the contest in North Wales:

  10. Ian Chisnall from Sussex who is standing as an independent candidate has also addressed my questions on his campaign blog:

    You may be interested to read his replies.

  11. Anonymous2/2/12 13:37

    I would be interested to know if Richard Hibbs is standing independently. Along with myself for Sussex I am aware of a candidate for another English County (we plan to announce our campaigns on the same day).

  12. Ian - I believe he is - if you scroll up you will see his website. You can also just click on his name.