In November the Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Nick Herbert, called for prospective candidates to step forward to become Police and Crime Commissioners.These 41 police commissioners will unquestionably hold some of the most challenging oversight roles in the public sector. What can prospective candidates do to prepare themselves to take office this November?
We believe that they should focus on three areas: understanding, strategy and partnership.
By developing an understanding of the policing situation in their area, candidates can build confidence among the general public and local public sector bodies, and help to ensure continuity of legal, financial and employment arrangements during the transition period.
Candidates should conduct due diligence and explore policing performance challenges, perhaps using special data rooms set up by police forces. They should also recognise the value of independent performance data, for example the British Crime Survey. The candidates can use this information, balanced with community concerns to tailor manifestos that set priorities. Prospective PCCs should ask forces to demonstrate that collaboration, outsourcing and cost-saving measures provide best value and serve public interests, and explore collaboration with other PCCs. Candidates should also explore partnerships with organisations outside the force.
Campaign commitments are likely to span cutting crime, controlling costs and improving service to citizens. Other possible strategic objectives include increasing detection rates, giving victims access to information about the progress of investigations, or targeting specific issues such as antisocial behaviour.
All these objectives need to be supported by credible delivery plans, produced in collaboration with police authorities. Plans should provide sufficient detail for benefits to be demonstrated early on in their tenure — say the first 100 days. An outline delivery plan for the remainder of the term of office can then be fleshed out.
Once in post, commissioners can only meet their campaign pledges through partnership. Their remit extends well beyond policing to include local authorities, courts, prisons, probation, health, education and victim support, as well as the third sector and cross-agency groups.
Police commissioners will need to lay the groundwork for these alliances early, forging links with organisations during their candidacy. They will have financial influence over these partnerships, including oversight of budgets and powers to commission contracts. New commissioners can build on existing cross-agency services, such as Community Safety Partnerships. They must also partner with the Police and Crime Panels that will oversee their work, and may choose to engage with the private sector too.
Police commissioners will face a big challenge. The earlier they start preparing for their new roles, the better. But it is not just prospective candidates that need to do this groundwork, those who will be working with them should also step forward to ensure that PCCs are well briefed and effective from day one.
Richard Bailey is a policing expert at PA Consulting Group.
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