It’s now a little over a month since the elections and Police and Crime Commissioners are beginning to make their mark. Deputies are being appointed, causing some controversy, and staff teams are being put in place, while recruitment has also begun for chief constables in ten forces. PCCs are also hard at work on their first budget and Police and Crime Plan, with the deadline for the former now only six weeks away.
Yet amid all this activity PCCs will need to think about the bigger picture and consider what further steps they need to take to make sure that the role is a success.
Clearly, given the pitiful turnout at the elections, one of their main priorities will be to engage with the public. Importantly, this must include engaging with all sectors of the community, including the most disengaged who may also be the principal targets of police activity. With this in mind, while consultations set up by some PCCs are welcome, PCCs must also be proactive in seeking out the views of those who might not otherwise engage.
As well as making sure that they are engaging with all sections of the community and not just those with the loudest voices, PCCs must also ensure that resources are allocated on the basis of need, not on the basis of winning votes. Allocating resources within a police force is complex and challenging, but making decisions based on robust analysis of the level of need is not only fair, but will also contribute to effective crime reduction and police legitimacy.
PCCs probably know by now that they cannot please all of the people all of the time, especially given shrinking budgets, so openness about what can realistically be achieved is important. As part of this, PCCs should welcome public scrutiny and mechanisms must be put in place to enable the public to question how and why decisions have been made. PCCs shouldn’t be afraid of making unpopular decisions, especially if based on robust evidence blindly following public opinion could in the end be their undoing.
Alongside building up their relationship with the public, PCCs must also work to build strong, sustainable relationships with local crime reduction and community safety partners. Evidence shows that partnership working is central to effective crime reduction and PCCs must ensure that they use their influence and the funding that they have available to bring together and rationalise strong partnerships at the local level.
PCCs have come into office with an incredibly tight time frame in which to develop and deliver their first budget and Police and Crime Plan. They will also be expected to attend a plethora of meetings with local stakeholders and their intray will have been overloaded from day one. But alongside dealing with the urgent, they must also find time to address the important if they want to have a real impact in their local area.