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Monday 23 April 2018
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Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and IOM

Version: KR/TP/9/1.0

Author: Frank Warburton

 

 

Summary

In most, if not all, forces in England and Wales the police currently have a significant investment in Integrated Offender Management in terms of: staffing allocated to joint teams; the provision of intelligence and data on the target groups of offenders; and partnership and governance arrangements underpinning the programmes.  Although the evidence base, the development of practice and the governance arrangements (particularly those involving partnerships) are relatively well established for IOM, the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) may bring a new and distinct mandate to the governance of policing at a time of austerity where hard choices between policing priorities will be necessary.

 

An understandable fear for those involved in IOM is that services which seek to manage offenders and in some ways invest in their futures will not be seen to command the support of the voting public and this lack of support will take on a greater significance in shaping policy. Accordingly, the issues for Integrated Offender Management (IOM) arising from the introduction of PCCs may include the following:

  • Whether police officers allocated to IOM programmes will be diverted to more traditional policing roles

  • Whether funding streams that have supported IOM in the past such as the Drug Interventions Programme will continue to do so under the direction of the PCC

  • Whether the partnership arrangements which underpin IOM will continue

 

Whether PCCs represent a threat to current IOM arrangements in these ways remains to be seen. They have significant powers and a leadership role but they are just one element in a many faceted system of governance which includes the Chief Constable, the Home Office, Local Authorities and their community safety partnerships and Local Criminal Justice Partnerships. Arguably, PCCs are likely to be most effective (in crime reduction terms) by engaging with and nurturing partnerships with a range of agencies which address criminogenic factors. In their turn, those agencies and partnerships driving IOM will need to ensure that they engage with PCCs and make the case for its continued support.

 

 
 

Introduction – What is the intention behind PCCs?

The intention of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) is to set the priorities for the police force within their force area, respond to the needs and demands of their communities more effectively, ensure that local and national priorities are suitably funded by setting a budget and the local precept, and hold to account the local chief constable for the delivery and performance of the force.1

 

In general terms, PCCs are required to set out a five-year police and crime plan (the plan), although it may be refreshed each year and may be fully reopened at the PCC's discretion. In terms of partnerships which will include criminal justice partners, PCCs have a strategic overview across local partnerships in their area and will be in a position to identify ways to drive and coordinate action across the force area.2 However, the precise nature of the future relationships between the police and criminal justice agencies has not yet been determined. According to the 2010 green paper ‘Breaking the Cycle’ – ‘Following their introduction we will then explore the extent to which Police and Crime Commissioners can take a greater role in supporting the delivery of justice.’
 

The government has removed reporting burdens and unnecessary legislation to free partners to focus on local priorities, i.e. not those set in Whitehall. Community safety and criminal justice partners should consider how they can best arrange themselves in order to deliver successful outcomes for communities.3 As far as criminal justice agencies are concerned, in exercising their functions, the elected policing body and the criminal justice bodies 'must make arrangements (so far as it is appropriate to do so) for the exercise of functions so as to provide an efficient and effective criminal justice system'.4  The Police are expected to make a key contribution to Integrated Offender Management.5
 

In terms of funding, it is intended that the community safety fund will be transferred to PCCs from 2013/14 although in the current year 2012/13 it has been cut by 60% to £28.8m for England and £1.2m for Wales. PCCs will also take over a number of other funding programmes including  the funding currently allocated to the Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) which will have its ring fence removed. DIP has been used to support IOM programmes so there is a danger that the funding may be diverted to other priorities.

 

 

The debate on PCCs

The debate about PCCs has tended to focus on whether they represent the most optimum form of democratic accountability in order to reflect local priorities. There is not a recognised evidence base for what delivers accountability best so the debate has largely been based on opinion. There has been a concern that the introduction of Policing and Crime Commissioners will represent a politicisation of policing. In the first place, it has been pointed out that PCCs are likely to be elected on party tickets6 and therefore could potentially follow party manifesto pledges rather than local needs. Alternatively, there is the concern that policing priorities will follow what is understood to be vote winning within key demographics rather than the greatest need.

These criticisms are countered by supporters who emphasise that the main aim is to hold policing services directly to account by means of democratic elections and that this mechanism will guarantee that police services are effective and responsive to local needs. The claim that PCCs will increase a kind of grandstanding politicisation seems borne out however, by one prospective candidate who has announced that he sees the police primarily as "rat catchers and not social workers".7 This could be taken as directly aimed at police involvement in IOM which is substantial – ‘A critical element was the extended role of the police in intelligence gathering, pathway support, disruption and enforcement’.8

Any discussion on these areas will need to be at least in part speculative. As the Association of Police Authorities have put it the PCC model has not been ‘stress tested’ in terms of other key actors: - the chief constable, the Police and Crime Panel, the Home Office and other national and local structures which will guide IOM. However there seem to be two important themes emerging which should be addressed if IOM is going to enjoy the full support of incoming PCCs – public perceptions of criminal justice and policing and the efficacy of partnership working.

 

Public Perceptions

Public perceptions of criminal justice and policing are complex and notoriously contradictory. They have included the following elements:

  • The perception that crime is increasing (nationally at least) when trends in recorded crime have been downwards

  • Identifying youths causing nuisance as a key concern whilst supporting the development of youth facilities

  • The perception that sentencing is more lenient than it is in reality

  • Supporting tougher punishment but agreeing that prison doesn’t work

The public knowledge of the previous governance arrangements for police via police authorities was low. PCCs are likely to bring more public awareness not only of policing but the wider operation of the criminal justice system. This presents promotional challenges to IOM programmes to demonstrate impact, effectiveness and success and to address with the public some of the complexities of managing offending where success can only be relative and a cornerstone of the work will entail investment in what may be seen as an undeserving group.

 

Partnerships

A key principle underlying IOM is multi-agency partnership. Since the 70s it has been increasingly recognised that there are a range of cross-cutting or wicked issues that cannot be adequately dealt with by a single public service and partnership arrangements are necessary. For policing this debate was pioneered by the then chief constable John Alderson of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary on the principle that the job of reducing crime and protecting the public was not a task for the police alone. Since then partnerships have had a long and varied history with different models and requirements tried and sometimes discarded.

An important and ongoing challenge for partnerships in crime reduction has been that at the same time as partnership working was ostensibly being encouraged by part of government, the central demands on individual partners by their corresponding government departments were continuing and in some cases intensifying; partners were always having to balance their partnership activity with other competing priorities. Despite this there is evidence of a continuing commitment to partnership working within local agencies and the lifting of central controls by the Coalition Government in terms of reporting and priority setting may free up partners for more creative and innovative, joint working. Acting against this may be the current climate of financial austerity where agencies will feel obliged to retrench their activity to what are seen as core functions.

The importance of maintaining partnerships is recognised in the guidelines for PCCs with the requirement for reciprocity between the PCC and existing community safety and criminal justice partnerships. However, the electoral mandate which comes with the PCC may represent an external influence on one key partner which is not necessarily recognised by other partners or partnerships. There is, although unlikely, the possibility that partnerships within force areas will wither or fail and it will be important for both the PCC and existing partnerships to ensure that they don’t. Working in partnership, although not conclusively identified as having caused the reductions in recorded crime in recent years is nonetheless the most promising form of governance available for crime reduction. Specifically, the case for IOM will be made most effectively to PCCs via working partnership mechanisms.

 

 

Conclusion

Much of the potential impact of PCCs on the current landscape of crime reduction and criminal justice landscape is unclear at present and some of the details on how PCCs are expected to work with existing governance structures are yet to be determined. There are potential dangers that PCCs may be a vehicle for exposing existing work in IOM to greater public awareness and that compared to other aspects of policing such work may not attract public support or the support of PCCs new to the complexities of crime reduction and the criminal justice system. The challenge for existing partnerships engaged in delivering IOM will be to make the case for the approach in an environment of increased public awareness. This will need to be accompanied by a proactive approach to PCCs to ensure that the role of PCC is positively and effectively aligned with current, established partnerships.


Endnotes

1 Home Office information sheet on PCCs: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/police-crime-commissioners/questions/pcc-powers/index.html (110612)
2 Section 10 of the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Act 2011
3 http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/police/police-crime-commissioners/questions/safety-and-justice-partners/index.html (110612)
4 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
5 See ‘Breaking the Cycle’ for example
6 Interview with former Chief Constable Tim Brain in the Guardian
7 Retired Colonel Tim Collins as reported in the Guardian
8 Sheffield Hallam process evaluation of 5 IOM pilots