Police and crime commissioner elections: What is a PCC and what do they do?

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Police and crime commissioner elections are taking place on May 6 this year alongside a host of others including local elections, London mayoral elections and Scottish Parliament elections. The PCC elections cover police forces in England and Wales, with the exception of the Metropolitan Police in London, Greater Manchester Police, West Yorkshire Police and City of London police areas. Within these areas, the PCC functions are exercised by the Mayor of London, the combined authority mayors for Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire, and the Court of the Common Council (part of the City of London corporation) respectively.

What is a PCC?

PCCs are still relatively new, and were elected only for the second time on May 5, 2016.

According to the PCC website, the role is to be “the voice of the people and hold the police to account”.

PCCs aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and useful police service within their local area, and are responsible for the totality of policing.

Elected by the public, crime commissioners hold Chief Constables and the wider police force to account by making them answerable to the communities they serve. 

What do police and crime commissioners do?

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (2011), PCCs have to:

  • Secure an efficient and effective police force for their area
  • Appoint the Chief Constables, hold them to account for running the force and if necessary, dismiss them
  • Set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan
  • Set the budget and determine the precept
  • Contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary
  • Bring together community safety and criminal justice partners to make sure local priorities are aligned

PCCs are expected to adhere to the seven principles of public life, as determined and published by the Nolan Committee.

These are also sometimes called the ‘Nolan Principles’ and are:

  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Accountability
  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Leadership

Each PCC publishes their own code of conduct, but the APCC organisation has drawn up an ethical framework led and developed by PCCs themselves, which they are free to adopt if they wish to do so.

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Why do we have to vote for PCCs?

The idea of voting for PCCs is in an effort to make the whole system democratic and for the purpose of serving the community.

If PCCs were undemocratically elected, then that could leave room for corruption or failures within the role.

The idea of PCCs were brought in by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition headed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The coalition agreement committed to “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”.

The Home Office described the introduction in 2012 as “the most significant democratic reform of policing ever”, by giving the public a real say in how their communities are policed.

Senior police figures at the time repeatedly spoke out against the role of PCCs, warning that police operational independence could be jeopardised and that the politicising of the police would likely creep in.

If you are eligible to vote, are on the electoral register and live in an area that has a PCC, you can vote in the May 6 elections.

To find and learn more about your PCC candidate, you can do so by entering your postcode here.

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