A review of current policing arrangements in England and Wales has recommended that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) should be abolished and replaced by a new system. The review said the PCC model had “fatal systematic flaws” and “should be discontinued in its present form at the end of the term of office of the 41 serving PCCs.”
Police and Crime Commissioners
The review led by Lord Stevens said PCCs, introduced in 2012, should be scrapped in 2016 and more power given to local Councillors and local Authorities. Police and Crime Commissioners are elected representatives charged with securing efficient and effective policing of Police areas in England and Wales. Commissioners replaced the now abolished Police authorities.
The core functions of Police and Crime Commissioners are to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective Police force within their area, and to hold the Chief Constable to account for the delivery of the Police and crime plan. Police and Crime Commissioners are charged with holding the Police fund and raising the local policing precept from council tax. Police and Crime Commissioners are also responsible for the appointment, suspension and dismissal of the Chief Constable.
The review also recommends that some Police forces should be merged as it suggests the current 43-force structure is “untenable” and advocates a move towards fewer but bigger forces. The review additionally suggests the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Independent Police Complaints Commission be replaced, and a renewed focus on neighbourhood policing is also being urged.
Reforming the System
The review was commissioned in 2011 by Labour. Shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said Labour would consult on the recommendations but “expects to implement the vast majority” of them in its next election manifesto.
Labour will proceed towards the next election with a goal to reform the system of Police and Crime Commissioners, possibly by scrapping them; conversely, the Conservatives want to extend the powers of PCCs. The Conservative Home Secretary, Theresa May, supports collaboration between constabularies and has shied away from reducing the number of forces or compelling them to merge.
The current Government has said it will look at the report, but it is not required to implement any of the recommendations.
Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Damian Green, said:
“Recorded crime has fallen by more than 10% since the Government came to power and we have put in place long-term reforms to help the Police continue that downward trend.
“We have stripped away targets and red tape to free Police from desk-bound jobs; we have installed the National Crime Agency to take on organised crime; we have installed a College of Policing to professionalise policing; we have modernised outmoded pay and conditions; and we have introduced a newly-reinforced ethical framework to ensure Police conduct is on an equal footing to cutting crime.”
In the report Lord Stevens detailed 37 “radical” recommendations, including a commitment to neighbourhood policing as the “building block of fair and effective policing”. He said:
“Faced with budgetary constraints and the government’s insistence that Police are crime fighters, there is a danger of the Police being forced to retreat to a discredited model of reactive policing.”
The report also recommends Police officers be given a new chartered status and could face being struck off a professional register if they are found to have committed serious misconduct.
The review says the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Independent Police Complaints Commission should be replaced by a more powerful body that would ensure failings were addressed “without delay”.
Other recommendations in the report include:
- Nationally recognised qualifications for officers
- A code of ethics for police officers and staff
- New media guidelines
- Mobile access to intelligence, including the Police National Computer
- Cybercrime experts to be recruited directly into police forces
- Restrictions on the use of private companies such as G4S and Serco for policing functions
- The introduction of a national procurement strategy for IT and equipment
Labour leader Ed Miliband said:
“This report will not gather dust on a shelf, it is a real plan for the next Labour Government. Neighbourhood Police on the beat, held to the highest standards with priorities set by local people.”
However, some criticised the findings in the report with Steve White, of the Police Federation, commenting the federation “would urge caution” with regard to some recommendations.