Policing: Police and Crime Commissioners - Home Affairs Committee Contents

6  Conclusion

66. Police and Crime Commissioners could give the public more opportunities to influence the way in which their local area is policed, but this is not inevitable. It will depend on the job definition set by Government and on the individuals who take up those roles—indeed the result may be widely different from police force to police force and from region to region. It follows that the way the role is established will be important and there are some important details that need filling out. There are also several aspects of the proposals that need further attention. In particular, we cite the clarification of operational independence and operational responsibility and the role and powers of Police and Crime Panels as matters upon which action is needed.

67. The Government must also make provision for the transitional arrangements that will apply if Police and Crime Commissioners take over from Police Authorities. This point was mentioned by several witnesses. Northumbria Police Authority raised a concern that "there will be a void and lack of accountability and impact on the appointment of [a] PCC for the first year, as a budget and plan will already have been agreed for 2012".[123] West Yorkshire Police Authority stated: "To ease the transition period we suggest that the Police and Crime Panels should contain current police authority members".[124] The Association of Police Authorities stated: "We are concerned that police authorities risk losing experienced staff at a local and national level leading up to the proposed changes in 2012." It recommended that "the Home Office make a statement of intent in relation to protection of existing staff in the transition process".[125] We agree that a statement of intent in this context would help to ensure some continuity.

68. When considering how best to make the police accountable to the communities they serve, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that their primary aim, as set out in Sir Robert Peel's principles of policing, is to prevent crime and disorder. Police and Crime Commissioners will be judged by their contribution to this aim, as well as by whether they have enhanced accountability and public engagement in policing. It is therefore vital that the Government's proposed new structure for engagement and accountability enhances the relationships between the many different organisations involved in promoting law and order: not only the police, but also, in their varying roles, local authorities, the health service, the prison and probation services and the courts, as well as a significant range of non-governmental or voluntary and community organisations and—in terms of early intervention—schools and the Youth Service. Above all Police and Crime Commissioners will be judged on whether they succeed in bringing the police closer to the public they serve.

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