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Police Governance – replacing Police and Crime Commissioners
There is a strong emphasis throughout the report on community engagement and neighbourhood policing and there is a specific recommendation to ensure that accountability goes down to the neighbourhood level by establishing "participatory budgeting units" to ensure greater local community involvement in allocating resources.

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This is the third in a series of posts on the seminal Policing for a Better Britain report.

“The PCC model is systemically flawed”

Much of the media coverage of the Stevens Report (as Policing for a Better Britain is commonly known) focused on its recommendation that Police and Crime Commissioners should be discontinued, asserting that having local police services being accountable to a “single individual” was inappropriate.

This decision appears to be based on the concerns that PCCs were more likely to do the popular, rather than the right, thing; that they would pander to popular policies at the expense of silent crimes such as domestic violence and would prioritise front-line policing at the expense of less visible work.

Four Dilemmas

The report sets out four key challenges to finding an appropriate form of local accountability for the police:

  1. How to reconcile public input into local priority-setting with the operational responsibility of Chief Constables and protection for individuals – particularly minorities.
  2. How to handle tension between responding to public concerns whilst implementing an evidence-based approach.
  3. How to focus on local need without neglecting cross border crimes and terrorism.
  4. How to ensure that core values and ideals are reflected in the way police go about their business.


A local solution is the recommended option with key powers devolved to the lowest tier of local government. Again, the Stevens Report makes four key recommendations:

  • Internal police boundaries should be coterminous with the “lowest relevant tier of local government”.
  • A legal power to give local government a say in appointing local police commanders.
  • Enabling lower tier councils to retain some of the police precept from the council tax so they can commission local policing.
  • Empowering the same councils to set priorities for neighbourhood policing.

In addition to this very local approach, there will be new Policing Boards at force level (replacing PCCs and their precursors Police Authorities) which will comprise the leaders of all the local authorities. This new Policing Board will be given a set of powers similar to PCCs:

  • To set the overall budget.
  • Appoint and dismiss the Chief Constable.
  • Formulate and agree local policing plan in partnership with the Chief Constable.

There is a strong emphasis throughout the report on community engagement and neighbourhood policing and there is a specific recommendation to ensure that accountability goes down to the neighbourhood level by establishing “participatory budgeting units” to ensure greater local community involvement in allocating resources.

Who should hold the police to account?

We are at an interesting political juncture in terms of deciding how the police should be held to account with clearly opposite views on the newly created Police and Crime Commissioners.

The government has made it clear that they see a strong future for PCCs with the role expanding to the other emergency services and beyond. The opposition wants to see PCCs disbanded.

What do you think of the Stevens Report recommendations – would Policing Boards represent proper local accountability or just a web of complex bureaucracy?

Please share your views in the comment section below:


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Related posts

Digital Engagement
Transforming the Criminal Justice System

The digital justice system is slowly becoming a reality. Police now transfer more than 90% of case files electronically to the CPS and there are digital Court pilots in Birmingham and Bromley. The next priority is to digitise evidence with police officers’ notebooks being overtaken by tablets and body worn video cameras which should not only streamline but also improve the quality of evidence.

Can we afford the police service we need?

One of the difficulties in getting a more efficient police force that spends a larger proportion of its funds on policing rather than administration is getting rid of an excessively bureaucratic culture. The Stevens report treads a fine line here as some its remedies, to my mind, seem to imply introducing a number of new systems which will struggle to streamline procurement and cut waste.

Do we need a national police service?

The report asks how we reconcile the need for police services to be locally accountable while facing up to the fact that the current structure of 43 separate forces in England and Wales is no longer cost effective, nor equipped to meet the challenges of organised and cross-border crime.
This is a challenge which also faces the modern probation service.

Raising police standards and tackling misconduct

This seems to be a particularly bold and radical approach to addressing two separate problems. The Stevens Report makes a very strong recommendation that this new ISPC should be entirely independent of the police service. This seems to me to be absolutely right in terms of the investigation of serious complaints. However, although the inspection function would benefit from a broader perspective, surely the intimate knowledge of police officers is absolutely key to make inspections a helpful and constructive exercise, rather than just a bureaucratic requirement?

Building a police profession

This approach clearly brings benefits to police officers in terms of elevating their professional status and celebrating the high standards already embraced by many. The flipside of the coin is that there would be much more openness about the inner workings of the police, particularly in terms of misconduct and press relations.

A new deal for the police

The report acknowledges the Winsor review, supports some aspects of it and rejects others. It criticises the way that Winsor has been handled and says their needs to be much more engagement and discussion with police officers themselves. It’s attitude to Winsor is summarised as…

2 Responses

  1. I have opposed PCC from the start as it represents the worst of both worlds. It (party)politicises policing and it’s not democratic as it places the power in the hands of one person (who may or may not be acting under party instructions) so is not truly democratic. The Stevens report offers an improvement but I would still be concerned by issue of party control of local policing.

    One other issue is that more & more there is a national dimension to policing. Although inevitable this concerns me.

    It seems to me inevitable that control of local policing will change after the next election. Demonstrating the ability of politicians to waste public money to promote party (& through it their own) interests while cutting policing & CJ budgets!

  2. Thanks for your comment Matt. I’m still agnostic about PCCs, but have to agree with you in terms of not liking the party political aspect. The trouble is that PCCs are so different from the rest of our system, unlike the US where Sheriffs, District Attorneys etc. are also elected.

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