This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Friday, March 14, 2014

PCCs: the good, the bad and the ugly

Prompted by this article in The Economist: Police oversight - Missing a beat, I added this comment which I republish here:

What is good about PCC based police governance:
  • Policing has always been political, and introducing PCCs has made that more explicit
  • Many of those elected are 'big beasts' or rapidly becoming so - able to challenge daft Whitehall policy
  • The range of indie PCCs has added plurality, spice & diversity to the tribal party political debate on policing policy
  • PCCs have had to grapple with real budgetary challenges & made precept decisions on that basis
  • Many PCCs have pursued innovative paths and highlighted issues that had hitherto been largely overlooked such as the interaction between policing and mental health service users
  • Many PCCs really understand ‘evidence based practice’
  • Some PCCs have made real efforts to reach out to their publics in systematic and indeed very ‘human’ ways (watch out for CoPaCC’s forthcoming thematic review on PCC engagement)
  • The majority of PCCs have conducted their office with due probity in recognition that they are spending the public’s money
  • Some Police & Crime Panels (PCPs) have grappled positively with their hard (limited) and soft (more extensive if act shrewdly) powers to hold PCCs to account
  • It has provoked a further debate about what should be good governance of the police & justice services (PCCs are not ‘it’, in my view)
What is bad about PCC based governance:
  • Introducing PCCs has introduced tribal party politics into policing which has turned off many citizens
  • Despite introducing these political specialists, the government has not listened to them enough
  • With some notable exceptions, PCCs are largely grey, male and white (in contrast to their more diverse predecessor police authorities)
  • Too many PCCs are defaulting to budget first and strategy second with little linkage between the two
  • Too many PCCs have not put their heads above the parapet and stayed largely invisible
  • Too many PCCs just have no clue about what evidence based practice really means and how it could challenge police culture
  • Too many PCCs still think that running a few public meetings in cold & dark town halls equates to real engagement
  • A politically significant number of PCCs have sailed very close to the wind (I will be generous) on personal expenses, appointing old chums and generally gilding their office 
  • Too many PCPs have either been bland fan clubs or sniping cabals, detracting from constructive scrutiny & debate
  • The founders, supporters & protagonists of this system of governance can only think of giving even more power to single individuals while limiting the checks and balances on this power
And I will add: what about the ugly?

Or to be fair, some of them are really quite handsome!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous14/3/14 10:16

    Ok my two pence:

    PCC have formed a second centre of gravity in local governement. Just when CDRPs were trying to promote the idea that ALL organisations are responsible for crime control and reduction the PCC concept has reduced it back to just a policing function.

    I know CDRPs were of very variable quality and results but potentially a problem that required a multi-agency approach will now be harder to acheive.

    I can't see local authorities busting a gut to reduce crime if its just going to help the re-appointment of a PCC from a rival party.

    Personally I think the London MOPAC model will be much better as it is still intergrated into the rest of local (regional) governement. However this wont succeed while Boris keeps appointing second rank Tory ex-councillors into the role of Deputy Mayor for Policing. Its a non-elected appointment in the gift of the Mayor, so by not getting someone who knows something about crime or EBP or even service level monitoring it just looks like jobs for his mates.