Police and crime commissioner
A police and crime commissioner (PCC) (Welsh: comisiynydd yr heddlu a throseddu) is an elected official in England and Wales charged with securing efficient and effective policing of a police area. Commissioners replaced the now-abolished police authorities. The first incumbents were elected on 15 November 2012 to serve for three-and-a-half years, but subsequent Commissioners are to be elected for four-year terms. The most recent elections took place in May 2016.
Separate arrangements exist for London and for some combined authority areas which have adopted a directly elected mayor. Policing in Scotland and Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, respectively. In Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority serves in a similar capacity for Police Scotland while in Northern Ireland, the Minister of Justice fulfills a similar role for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
The post of police and crime commissioner should not be confused with the police rank of "Commissioner", held by the chief police officers for the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London Police, which cover the two police areas in London.
- 1 Background
- 2 Role and functions
- 3 Police and crime panels
- 4 Oath of impartiality
- 5 Eligibility for election
- 6 Electoral System
- 7 Office-holders
- 8 Possible abolition
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In the 2010 British general election campaign, both the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats' manifestos outlined plans, respectively, to replace or reform the existing police authorities, both parties raising concerns about the perceived lack of accountability of police authorities to the communities they served. 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 the Government's vision for policing, including the introduction of police and crime commissioners. This was followed by the introduction of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill into Parliament in December 2010. The Bill received Royal Assent on 15 September 2011, becoming the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.
The first elections for police and crime commissioners were held on 15 November 2012, and the new commissioners took office on 22 November 2012. They replaced the existing police authority framework. The next elections will take place in May 2016 and every four years thereafter.
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.
Role and functions
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 (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.
Police and crime plans
Shortly after their election to office, a police and crime commissioner 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 police and crime commissioner 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 by the Home Office 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 Commissioner wishes to increase the precept by an amount deemed to be excessive, the Localism Act 2011 requires a referendum. It is the Commissioner'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
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 commissioners' decisions and ensuring this information is available to the public. They must review the commissioner's draft police and crime plan and draft annual report before publication, and the commissioner 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 commissioner from office where he or she is charged with a serious criminal offence. Police and crime panels will be able to veto a Commissioner'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 commissioners 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
On 16 August 2012 the Home Office announced that every newly elected police and crime commissioner would be required to swear an "oath of impartiality" before taking office. The oath reads:
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.
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 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 actually 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".
The written form of the oath which is signed by all PCCs on taking office is not headed "Oath of Impartiality" but "Declaration of Acceptance of Office" 
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/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 irrespective of whether they actually were imprisoned or whether 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.
Commissioners have a set four-year term of office and a maximum of two terms.
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, the top two candidates go on to a second round in which second preference votes of the eliminated candidates are allocated to them 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.
Nominations for the 2012 elections closed at 12:00 on 19 October 2012 and voting took place on 15 November 2012.
Summary of election results in November 2012:
In Greater London there are two police forces. The City of London is policed by the City of London Police and the City of London Corporation is the police authority. The Metropolitan Police District is policed by the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor of London is the police authority through the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime. The mayor may also appoint a Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime to act on his behalf.
|Police area||Police and crime commissioner|
|Dyfed-Powys Police||Dafydd Llywelyn (Plaid Cymru)|
|Gwent Police||Ian Johnston (Independent)|
|North Wales Police||Arfon Jones (Plaid Cymru)|
|South Wales Police||Alun Michael (Labour Co-operative)|
Elections for 40 of the 41 police force areas with commissioners took place on Thursday 5 May 2016. There was no election in Greater Manchester, as the responsibilities of the post are foreseen to come under the remit of the proposed Mayor of Greater Manchester, whose first election is due to take place in 2017.
There has been controversy over the system of directly elected police and crime commissioners. Issues have included conflict between PCCs and chief constables, questions over PCC expenses, the cost of elections and low voter turnout (below 15%). The Plain English Campaign described the commissioners as "serial offenders" in "mangling of the English language" and the use of "jargon". The Home Secretary Theresa May, who introduced the system, considered it to have had mixed success. The Liberal Democrats have 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.
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We will retain the first past the post system of voting for parliamentary elections and extend this system to police and crime commissioner and mayoral elections.
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