New Models of Participation and Expertise in the United States and Europe
Edited by Thierry Delpeuch and Jacqueline E. Ross
Chapter 5: The English and Welsh experiment in democratic governance of policing through Police and Crime Commissioners: a misconceived venture or a good idea, badly implemented?
Policing in England and Wales has witnessed what the then Coalition Government championed as ‘the most radical change in policing for half a century’ (Home Office 2010: 10), through the introduction of directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). This was intended to herald a new model of ‘democratic accountability’ that would result in ‘a massive transfer of power from the government to the people’, according to the Home Secretary, as a result of which the public are to ‘be in charge and every police officer – from chief constables, to the officer on the street – will have to answer to them’ (May 2011). The new arrangements are intended to ‘empower the public – increasing local accountability and giving the public a direct say on how their streets are policed’ (Home Office 2010: 10), thus deepening efforts to make policing ‘citizen-focused’ and enmeshing its operational delivery more significantly in public expectations and popular demands. In so doing, the new governance structure ‘sets out a new deal for the public and a new deal for the police service. A deal where the public are in control and where the police can focus on cutting crime and making people feel safe’ (Home Office 2010: 8). According to the then Policing Minister, Nick Herbert: ‘These reforms are essential to address the democratic deficit in policing, to end the era of central government bureaucratic control . . . and to drive value for money’. Commissioners are to be identifiable, public-facing individuals occupying a central position in the new governance architecture. Described by the Prime Minister as ‘a big local figure’, PCCs are intended to mark a radical break with the previous ‘shadowy bodies’ (Morgan 2012: 473) – as Police Authorities were described – which remained largely unknown to local people. Importantly, PCCs’ remit extends beyond the police to encompass responsibilities for crime and community safety. PCCs will have greater freedom than Police Authorities had to determine priorities for policing resources. Crucially, they have powers to commission services from anyone within their force area, including the voluntary and private sectors. The only significant constraints are laid down in the collective cross-force priorities in the annual ‘strategic policing requirement’. This is set out by the Home Secretary and covers national responsibilities that cut across force borders to which PCCs and Chief Constables must have regard when setting their local policing plans.
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