In the journey towards the introduction of the first police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in May 2012, the government has set out their relationship with chief constables.
As detailed in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, currently being debated in the House of Lords, police and crime commissioners will have a number of statutory functions as part of their role to hold forces to account.
These include setting the strategic direction and the budget, as well as holding the chief constable to account.
The draft protocol, laid in the House of Lords today, sets out the PCC’s legal duty to maintain an efficient and effective police force.
It also sets out how they should provide the link between the police and the public, working to translate the legitimate desires of the public into action.
Responsibilities for other areas are given too, such as the delivery of community safety through bringing together community safety partnerships, and entering into agreements to deliver better value for money and better policing capabilities.
Strong operational independence
The government has made a strong commitment to ensuring that the operational independence of chief constables will remain.
The draft protocol builds on this commitment by making clear that chief constables retain the direction and control over the force’s officers and staff.
Policing and criminal justice minister Nick Herbert said: ’The government is determined to replace police authorities with directly elected police and crime commissioners, to strengthen the local accountability of policing, give communities a voice and enable less interference from Whitehall.
‘This draft protocol sets out the proper roles of police and crime commissioners and chief constables, and makes clear that the operational independence of the police will be safeguarded.
‘We hope that the draft protocol will help to inform debate on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, and we welcome comments on it.’
In addition, the draft protocol also sets out the powers and functions of the police and crime panel, which will scrutinise the decisions of the PCC.
Limited role for Home Office
It states that, where the panel seeks to scrutinise the PCC on an operational matter, the chief constable may also need to appear before the panel to offer factual accounts and clarity regarding the actions and decisions of police officers and staff.
Furthermore, the draft protocol underlines the commitment to limiting the role of the Home Office in day-to-day policing matters, while restating the powers retained by the Home Secretary for use as a last resort in defined circumstances.
These powers allow the Home Secretary to direct the PCC and chief constable to take action if they are failing to carry out their functions.
The government committed during the passage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill in the House of Commons to bring forward a draft protocol with the aim of making it available for consideration of the Bill in the House of Lords.
A memorandum of understanding was recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
The draft protocol has been drawn up in association with representatives from Association of Chief Police Officers, the Association of Police Authorities and the Association of Police Authority chief executives.