The Committee on Standards in Public Life has now held its final roundtable meeting as part of the inquiry into the accountability, ethics and leadership of local policing. We've published summary notes of the roundtable of Chief Executives of PCCs' offices and academics.
The concluding session brought together leading figures from nine organisations central to the Committee’s inquiry. They gave us an issues-rich and informed discussion plus the opportunity to test emerging findings from the inquiry so far.
The roundtable was structured into three parts:
Cores values, ethics and legitimacy
The discussion focused on accountability and highlighted the negative perceptions often associated with policing accountability by officers. The message was clear that accountability mechanisms need to be supportive rather than just inhibitive. The culture change required for embedding of College of Policing’s code of ethics was also emphasized. This needs to be properly planned and police owned, led and managed. The development and effectiveness of Ethics Committees and the role of the Police and Crime Panel in ethical issues was also discussed.
Transparency of decision-making, scrutiny, leadership and support
There was a lively debate about transparency; - what it means in practice, how it’s applied in differing contexts and the limits of its application because of cost and practicalities. Does transparency equal good scrutiny? Links were drawn between transparency, accessibility of information and direct forms of public engagement.
Local-national balance to ensure embedding core values, standards and professionalism
This part of the meeting centred on the need for and value of simplicity and clarity in standards. Operational independence was discussed and what this means in practice for accountability to the public of both Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables.
In summary, the evidence seen by the Committee has shown strengths and also some ethical risks, in that the system is heavily dependent on closer relationships between personalities, with fewer checks and balances than before. One contributor described the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners as “an intriguingly novel governance model”.
Contributors urged the Committee not to make any recommendations that blurred the lines of accountability, and ensure that any new proposals could mitigate failures whilst not inhibiting good practice. Moreover, with continuing changes in policing and developments in the governance landscape, it is seen as vital for any recommendations to be “future proofed” and have high standards and core values incorporated into them.
David Prince is a member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life and chair of the subcommittee for the inquiry into local policing.