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29.06.15

PCCs should sign ‘ethical checklist’ to reassure public

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) should be required to sign up to a national minimum code of conduct, the Committee on Standards in Public Life has recommended. 

In a new report – Tone from Top - leadership, ethics and accountability in policing – the Committee has called for greater safeguards in the accountability arrangements in local policing in between the four yearly cycle of elections for PCCs. 

In particular, the Committee suggests an ‘ethical checklist’ be used at PCC elections starting with the forthcoming elections in April 2016. 

Launching the report, Lord Paul Bew, chair of the Committee, said: “The checklist will inform the public about the ethical approach of all candidates seeking election to the post of PCC. If the tone and culture of policing is set by those at the top, then the public is entitled to know that the person they vote for will promote, support and sustain high standards. 

“In between elections, a more robust set of checks and balances is needed to enable to public to make a fair and balanced assessment of their PCC.” 

PCCs set the strategic direction and aims of the police force and have responsibility for delivering community safety and reducing crime and delivering value for money. PCCs control over £12bn of police force funding. 

They also have the statutory responsibility to appoint a Chief Constable as well as for their removal. In addition to the PCCs’ local role, they have a regional and national role to ensure cross border resilience and capability and to meet national threats such as terrorism or organised crime. 

The Committee added that the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections Order should be amended so that all candidates for the post of PCC should be required to publish their responses to the Committee’s Ethical Checklist. 

“For the May 2016 elections all candidates should be asked to consider and answer the Checklist and the Committee will be encouraging relevant media outlets to play their part in seeking out and publicising their responses,” say the report. 

It was also noted that the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Association of Policing and Crime Chief Executives and the Local Government Association should work collaboratively to produce a model Memorandum of Understanding between the PCC and Chief Constable to include working arrangements, recognition of the role of statutory officers and a supporting statutory officer protocol. 

However, it was recommended the home secretary should conduct an urgent review of whether there are sufficient powers available to take action against a PCC whose conduct falls below the standards expected of public office holders. 

“PCCs have undoubtedly shaken things up. The arrival of an ‘unshackled’ democratically accountable figurehead has brought about new ways of working and greater public engagement in many areas,” said Lord Bew. “But there have also been concerns about the way some PCCs have behaved and the way in which some decisions have been taken.” 

UPDATE

Julia Mulligan, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) Transparency Group and PCC for North Yorkshire, said the report is timely, and that she broadly welcomes the majority of the recommendations and shall be working with colleagues to implement them. 

"The APCC will also be developing a more detailed response to the CSPL on this report," she added. "It is reassuring that the report confirms that PCCs are harnessing the voice of the public and doing what we were elected to do - help the public get the police service they want and need.  The report is clear that PCCs are out in their communities using a wide variety of methods to understand local priorities, concerns and needs.  However, the report also illustrates that we have work to do on ensuring more of the public are aware of what we do.  

 "Today, I want send two clear messages to the government: 

  • The report is clear that the public need to be more fully engaged in PCC elections – to achieve this, it is essential that government must now provide some support to all PCC candidates to help them communicate with the public and explain their manifestos and priorities;
  • When considering devolution and police restructuring plans, it is vitally important to keep policing local. Keep accountability local. Keep the conversations with the public local. Undermine this and you will undermine trust in the police.”

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