Police and crime commissioner
A police and crime commissioner (PCC; Welsh: comisiynydd yr heddlu a throseddu) is an elected official in England and Wales responsible for generally overseeing police forces. A police, fire and crime commissioner (PFCC) is an elected official in England responsible for generally overseeing both police forces and fire services. Commissioners replaced now-abolished police authorities. The first incumbents were elected on 15 November 2012.
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In the 2010 general election campaign, the manifestos of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats outlined plans, respectively, to replace or reform the existing police authorities. Following the election, the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement of 2010 set out that:
We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives.
Later in 2010, the government published 'Policing in the 21st Century', a consultation on its vision for policing, including the introduction of police and crime commissioners. This was followed by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, made the Policing Protocol Order in November 2011, which stated:
The establishment of PCCs has allowed for the Home Office to withdraw from day-to-day policing matters, giving the police greater freedom to fight crime as they see fit, and allowing local communities to hold the police to account.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners was commissioned by the Home Office to facilitate co-ordination, representation and support for police and crime commissioners and police governance bodies from November 2012. The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) represents all 40 PCCs as of April 2021.
Role and functions
The core functions of a PCC is 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 (from which all policing of the area is financed) 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, although the 2011 Policing Protocol Order states that the PCC "must not fetter the operational independence of the police force and the Chief Constable who leads it". PCCs are able to appoint a Deputy PCC.
Police and crime plans
Shortly after their election to office, a PCC must produce a "police and crime plan". That plan must include his or her objectives for policing, what resources will be provided to the chief constable and how performance will be measured. Both the PCC and the chief constable must have regard to the police and crime plan in the exercise of their duties. The PCC is required to produce an annual report to the public on progress in policing.
Police and crime commissioners hold the 'police fund', from which all policing is financed. The bulk of funding for the police fund comes from the Home Office in the form of an annual grant (calculated on a proportionate basis to take into account the differences between the 43 forces in England and Wales, which vary significantly in terms of population, geographical size, crime levels and trends), though commissioners will also set a precept on the council tax to raise additional funds. If a PCC wishes to increase the precept by an amount deemed to be excessive, the Localism Act 2011 requires a referendum. It is the PCC's responsibility to set the budget for the force area, which includes allocating enough money from the overall policing budget to ensure that he or she can discharge his or her own functions effectively.
Proposed extension of powers
In September 2015, the government undertook a consultation into proposals which would bring England's fire services under the control of PCCs. Currently,[when?] there are four Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners. These are for Essex, Staffordshire, North Yorkshire and Northamptonshire.
Police and crime panels
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 established police and crime panels within each force area in England and Wales (excluding Greater London). These panels consist of at least one representative from each local authority in that area, and at least two independent members co-opted by the panel.
Panels are responsible for scrutinising PCC decisions and ensuring this information is available to the public. They must review the PCC's draft police and crime plan and draft annual report before publication, and the PCC must give their comments due consideration. A police and crime panel may require the attendance of the commissioner or a member of his or her staff at any time, and may suspend a PCC from office where he or she is charged with a serious criminal offence. Police and crime panels will be able to veto a PCC's proposed precept or proposed candidate for Chief Constable by a two-thirds majority.
A National Audit Office report published in January 2014 found that there were "few checks and balances" on the 41 PCCs between elections. It said police and crime panels, which were set up to scrutinise PCCs, "lack powers" to act on the information they receive.
Oath of impartiality
I do solemnly and sincerely promise that I will serve all the people of [Police Force Area] in the office of police and crime commissioner without fear or favour. I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public. I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice. I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public. I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest, nor encourage any police action save that which is lawful and justified within the bounds of this office.
The then Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Nick Herbert said:
Police and crime commissioners will be important public servants and it is right that they make a formal public commitment to the communities they will serve. Although police and crime commissioners may stand for a political party, the public will expect them to represent all the people in their area impartially, without fear or favour. The swearing of an oath will be an important symbol of this impartiality, emphasising both the significance of this new role in local communities and that commissioners are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate. An oath will also underline the particular importance of even-handedness in an office which holds to account the local chief constable and police force who themselves are bound to serve impartially.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, set up to act as an "umbrella body" for the elected PCCs, revealed that it had been asked[when?] by the Home Office to "seek views from police authorities and prospective candidates on the wording of the oath". By the time the first police and crime commissioner had been elected, in November 2012, the original Home Office text of the "Oath of Impartiality" had been significantly modified. As an example, this is the amended oath as delivered by the police and crime commissioner for Avon and Somerset:
I Sue Mountstevens of North Somerset do hereby declare that I accept the office of Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset. In making this declaration, I solemnly and sincerely promise that during my term in office:
I will serve all the people of Avon and Somerset in the office of Police and Crime Commissioner. I will act with integrity and diligence in my role and, to the best of my ability, will execute the duties of my office to ensure that the police are able to cut crime and protect the public. I will give a voice to the public, especially victims of crime, and work with other services to ensure the safety of the community and effective criminal justice. I will take all steps within my power to ensure transparency of my decisions, so that I may be properly held to account by the public.
I will not interfere with the operational independence of police officers.
In South Wales, the title "Oath of Impartiality" was replaced by the term "Oath of Office" on the PCC's website with no mention of "impartiality". In other police areas, like Thames Valley, the PCC's website describes it simply as "The Oath".
Eligibility for election
Candidates must be 18 or over and registered to vote within the police area on the date of nomination. Members of the House of Lords are not barred from standing. Members of the House of Commons are not barred from standing but, if they win, they must resign before they can take up a PCC appointment.
Those disqualified from standing or continuing to hold office include:
- Anyone nominated as a candidate at a police and crime commissioner election taking place on the same day for a different police area.
- Anyone who is not a British, European Union or qualifying Commonwealth citizen. (A qualifying Commonwealth citizen is a Commonwealth citizen who either does not need leave to enter or remain or has indefinite leave to remain in the UK.)
- Anyone who has ever been convicted of an imprisonable offence. This applies even if they were not actually imprisoned, or if the conviction is "spent".
- Anyone who is a police officer or is directly or indirectly employed by the police.
- Anyone who is disqualified under certain provisions of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 including civil servants, members of the regular armed forces or the holders of any judicial offices specified in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 (as amended).
- Anyone who is a member of the legislature of any country or territory outside the UK.
- Anyone who is a member of staff of a local council that falls wholly or partly within the police area in which the election is to be held - including anyone employed in an organisation that is under the control of a local council in the police area for which the election is to be held.
- Anyone who is the subject of a debt relief order or interim order, a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order, or a debt relief restrictions undertaking.
- Anyone who is disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1983 (which covers corrupt or illegal electoral practices and offences relating to donations) or under the Audit Commission Act 1998.
Candidates must secure the signatures of 100 people registered to vote within the force area in which they wish to stand and must pay a deposit of £5,000. A person with an anonymous entry in the register of electors cannot nominate a candidate for election. The appointed Deputy PCC is held to similar criteria as the PCC. During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom the Cabinet Office reduced the number of signatures candidates required (The Mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Coronavirus, Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) Order 2021) on nomination forms in order to reduce social interaction.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners published a candidate briefing prior to the 2021 elections, setting out "Guidance, advice and information for anyone interested in standing as a candidate in the 2021 Police and Crime Commissioner elections."
Jonathon Seed, the Conservative Party candidate for Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner in the 2021 election, was barred from taking up the post when it was revealed that he had a past conviction for an imprisonable offence. ITV News had asked Seed, his campaign team and the Conservative Party, if Seed had any convictions before polling day. In footage, posted online, Seed refused to answer questions put to him by news reporters prior to the election. Wiltshire Police have asked Thames Valley Police to investigate. The re-run of the election is expected to cost £1 million.
Elections use the supplementary vote system: voters mark the ballot paper with their first and second choices of candidate. If no candidate gets a majority of first preference votes, all but the top two candidates are eliminated and the second preference votes of the eliminated candidates are allocated to one of the two remaining (or set aside if no second preference for either) to produce a winner. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 directs that the voting system is first-past-the-post if there are only two candidates for a specific commissioner region.
The following is a list of all the police and crime commissioners, as of July 2021.
Police and crime commissioners
Police, fire and crime commissioners
|Roger Hirst||Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex|
|Stephen Mold||Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire|
|Philip Allott||Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire|
|Ben Adams||Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Staffordshire|
Mayors who exercise police and crime commissioner functions
|Andy Burnham||Mayor of Greater Manchester|
|Sadiq Khan||Mayor of London|
|Tracy Brabin||Mayor of West Yorkshire|
The City of London Police Committee, chaired by James Thomson, oversees the City of London Police.
Police and crime commissioners
|Dafydd Llywelyn||Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys|
|Jeff Cuthbert||Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent|
|Andy Dunbobbin||Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales|
|Alun Michael||Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales|
The British Transport Police Authority, Ministry of Defence Police Committee and Civil Nuclear Police Authority oversee the British Transport Police, Ministry of Defence Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary, respectively.
Issues have included conflict between PCCs and chief constables, questions over PCC expenses, the cost of elections and low voter turnout (in some cases, below 15%). The Plain English Campaign described the commissioners in 2015 as "serial offenders" in "mangling of the English language" and the use of "jargon". The former Home Secretary Theresa May, who introduced the directly elected commissioners, in 2014, considered the policy to have had mixed success.
In 2014, the Liberal Democrats indicated that they would scrap the positions. In light of this, the Liberal Democrats boycotted the 2014 South Yorkshire PCC by-election.
The replacement of some PCCs with directly elected mayors is expected to occur as a result of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016. In 2017, the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner was replaced by the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the role of West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner was absorbed by the mayor of West Yorkshire in 2021. In 2019, both the Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region and the Mayor of the West Midlands advocated taking over the police and crime commissioner roles in their respective areas.
- Sheriffs in the United States, elected officials also responsible for the administration of law within a given geographic area
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