Huge thanks to the folks who joined me for the session on elected Police and Crime Commissioners – including @demsoc, @Nickkeane, @SashaTayler and a some others who I don’t yet know on twitter.
I used the session to test and expand some work I have been doing on this which you can read about here. Put simply I am proposing 4 principles for the PCC:
- The Office should own the Democracy
- Be open by default
- Create a space where the politician can listen to the relevant debate and connect with the public
- Use really good consultation tools to ensure that decisions are fact rather than media based
I pitched the session because of my increasing concern that there seems to be no conversation happening about the kind of democratic opportunity that the creation of the new PCCs will bring. Now – I am fairly sure that someone in the Home Office is thinking about this – but not sure enough not to want to poke it with a big stick to try and get some wider debate happening. I am going to redouble efforts to find the person who is doing this so please say if you know! Without this wider debate I think the risk is that we end up with a mild adjustment to the current (failing) system rather than looking at this as the chance to create a democratic structure that is going to be relevant and effective for the next 20 years.
My observations from the Police Authorities and Forces that I have been speaking to is that we have all been so certain it wouldn’t happen that we have failed to really engage with what it means. However – thanks to the intervention of the folks in South Yorkshire I started to think about this and the session at GovCamp was a chance to test my thinking out on a group of informed and interested folks who as is always the case with the GovCamp crowd had some really useful observations:
- Perhaps the biggest issue is not the structure but the fact that the public don’t understand what the role is and are not likely to turnout in great numbers to select the person. The question of the validity of the mandate they will get is a very real one
- There is an opportunity to reengage the public with the task of priority setting – its not all bad!
- The Police and Crome Panels should be able to hold the democratic accountability but the risk is that they will be weak in the same was as the Police Authorities have often been perceived
- I really need to read up about the US models which have influenced this approach and find out more about how they work
- The boundaries of some of the forces are extremely unwieldily (the example used being Thames Valley) and this is not going to help the public feel as if this is a ‘local’ policing solution
- There is a real question as to where the community engagement role will sit between the Force and the PCC – this is going to need to be faced head on
- We need to remember that they have responsibility for Crime and not Just for Policing – and try and unpick what this means
So, I’m going to keep trying to find the person who (I hope) is thinking about this and I’m also going to follow up on some of the really useful suggestions that were made in the session with respect to people to speak to. I’ll update here when we get a meeting sorted with somePolice Authorities (looks like March) and if I find that someone else has got this all in hand then I will also let you know…in the meantime will sharpen the big stick and keep poking this
RE point 4 of your principles… I agree with you in principle there, but in practice isn’t much of the public debate driven by fear of crime more than the actual crime itself. And even if it might be irrational in some senses, that is still a valid point of view that needs addressing. Just telling people they are wrong to be afraid won’t really get you anywhere if they are demanding more police patrols in their neighbourhood, etc.
I’m not sure what the exact answer is to that issue, but just wondering how plausible principle 4 is in the real world.
I think my thought here is that we should be building towards a more evidence based debate and that along with setting the standard or open by default we should also be mirroring back to people what they are saying.
The fear of crime point is of course true – and it’s also not rational – I guess my hope is that we can make the response. Ore rational by connecting debate more strongly to facts as opposed to media stories.
There is a risk that this is very much an intellectual ‘age of enlightenment’ aspiration however I think it’s worth pursuing as if we are heading towards an information based economy then these are skills that will need to be more prevalent in society anyway.
Ultimately I am trying to advocate for the idea that we build the PCC around how society is changing and not around how it’s been in the past. This may be ambitious!!!
I do wonder on three things that are troubling me about these elections:
(i) The protection from an extremist set of candidates? Is there any and now are we to know who these people are?
(ii) The complete lack of public knowledge about the impending elections; and
(iii) The cost of them mid year. We at Epping have put £148,000 of public money up to pay for them, wow replicated across the Country, how many policemen would that have put on the beat?