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There’s an election on the horizon…
The Criminal Justice Alliance and Centre for Justice Innovation have a strategy for influencing the next generation of Police and Crime Commissioners.

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This is a guest post by Nina Champion, Director, Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) and Phil Bowen, Director, Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI). 

Third round of PCC elections

While there is intense political and public speculation about a general election, a lesser talked about (but confirmed!) election is on the horizon.  Next May, for the third time since they were introduced in 2012, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will be elected across England and Wales.

Current reports indicate at least half of incumbent PCCs will not seek re-election, opening up the field to a new cohort of candidates and creating a key window of opportunity to highlight the key challenges successful PCCs will face in 2020 and make suggestions for how they can employ innovative solutions to overcome them.

Over the summer, an expert group of CJA members, with experience of working with PCCs across the country, came together to share examples of good practice currently supported by some PCCs which we would like to see adopted more widely. Many of these were included in a 4-page briefing for PCC candidates – ‘Public Safety, Public Trust’ – which the CJA and CJI recently launched at the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences.

Our expert group highlighted five key challenges for PCCs in 2020:

  • Tackling violent crime
  • Supporting victims of crime
  • Reducing the harm caused by drugs
  • Breaking the cycle of reoffending
  • Building trust in policing across all communities

Public Safety, Public Trust shows prospective PCCs there are practical and realistic solutions to these challenges that could be included in future Police and Crime Plans. The briefing also reflects the fact that some PCCs have increasingly looked to support initiatives that have impact beyond the ‘traditional’ policing remit, using their convening power to tackle issues with a ‘whole-systems’ approach.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference, West Midlands PCC David Jamieson urged PCCs to use their ‘soft power’ to bring stakeholders together and lead public opinion. He talked passionately about the commission he had established to reduce the harm caused by drugs because, in his own words, ‘getting tough wasn’t getting us anywhere.’ Solutions included a focus on diversion and drug testing at festivals.

At the Conservative Party Conference Katy Bourne, PCC for Sussex, described how she had used her convening power to adopt an effective whole-system approach to supporting women in the criminal justice system and to implement technology which not only saved police time, but provided a safe environment for vulnerable victims and witnesses to give evidence.

The value of lived experience

Discussions at both events focused on the value of people with lived experience in designing and delivering effective and engaging services. We heard from Junior Smart and Joanne Bakere on their work at St. Giles Trust, which employs trained and supported peer workers in schools, community settings and police custody to engage young people at risk or involved with gangs and county lines. And Gareth, an undergraduate who worked as a paid intern in David Jamieson’s office, described how he used his lived and academic experience to help advise on commissioning of programmes and services. The West Midlands PCC has now became a ‘ban the box’ employer, helping reduce the stigma of employing people with convictions and benefiting from diverse perspectives to better understand how to reduce crime and reoffending. Katy Bourne PCC also highlighted the value she gained from establishing a Youth Commission to provide the often unheard perspectives of young people in the commissioning process, reflecting in particular on their experiences and ideas around stop & search and domestic abuse in the family home.

One of the most powerful aspects of the launch events was the involvement of victim survivors who had been through Restorative Justice conferences. At the first launch event Lucy, now an RJ Ambassador for the charity Why Me?, explained how she was supported to meet her ex-partner who was in prison for the life-threatening injuries he caused her.  She described the impact the offence had on her mental health and how she had been petrified to leave her home. She explained how ‘RJ changed my life. It is not a soft option, having to face me was harder than more years in prison. At the end I wished him luck.’ She described how since then she has gained employment and also volunteers supporting people with drug and alcohol issues.

At the second launch event Linda described how she met with the 20 year old man who killed her sister while driving a car at speed. Linda described how she had told the young man her sister would not want him to make excuses and that he should to continue with his education and his efforts to raise  awareness with young people about speeding. She ended with a plea that all PCC areas should fund RJ whoever initiates it, as she only benefited from the experience because the PCC for Sussex commissions an RJ partnership to fund RJ regardless of which party initiates it, whereas most areas only fund RJ when the process is initiated by the victim.

At a time where we are seeing a return the tired rhetoric of ‘law and order’, both events heard refreshing examples of PCCs and candidates who were being led by the evidence on what works, and were being inspired by the examples of others to tackle local criminal justice issues in a progressive, whole-system and innovative way.

The CJA and CJI will be distributing the briefing widely between now and the May elections and are keen to hear from those working with PCCs and PCC candidates. If you are attending a hustings in your area, we hope you find the briefing useful in prompting questions to the local candidates about their plans to tackle these crucial issues – please let us know what they say!

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