POLICE and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are “on probation” because of a failure to connect with the public, a powerful committee of MPs has decided.
Eighteen months after they were first elected, a Home Affairs Select Committee report says the case for PCCs – intended to replace police authorities – is still to be made, following low election turnouts and the failure of some to live up to public expectations.
Elections in November 2012 saw poor turnouts of less than 15 per cent. In Gwent, one polling station had no votes cast, with many across England and Wales registering just a handful.
The committee is suggesting a range of measures, including putting the names of deputy PCCs on the ballot, allowing teams to be elected as a single ticket, to boost transparency and prevent nepotism claims.
There is also a recommendation that police and crime panels be strengthened to improve their role in scrutinising the removal, resignation or retirement of a chief constable, and to enable them to veto the appointments of deputy PCCs.
Former Gwent chief constable Carmel Napier resigned last June after being told by Gwent’s PCC Ian Johnston that he would began the process of removing her if she did not. The issue was front page news and helped fuel a nationwide debate about the extent of PCCs’ powers.
“The hiring of deputies and the decision to remove chief constables are critical decisions for local communities and it is vital the amount of the scrutiny applied to commissioners by police and crime panels increases,” said committee chairman Keith Vaz MP.
“The concept of Police and Crime Commissioners is still very much on probation. Some have fallen well short of the public’s expectations.
“Urgent reforms are needed to ensure that this concept does not put at risk public trust and engagement in the police, the very objectives for which PCCs were brought in.
“Deputies should not be cronies that are given their job on the basis of nepotism. By electing them on the same ticket we ensure the public will be able to have their say on someone who often acts with the powers of the Commissioner.
“Though we welcome good working relationships between chief constables and PCCs, the arrangement should never be too cosy.
“The setting of targets by PCCs must not promote the manipulation of crime figures and all PCCs should review their auditing arrangements immediately.”