In advance of the elections in May, the Committee on Standards in Public Life has published its ethical checklist for all current and aspiring PCCs. As well as writing to candidates, the Committee is highlighting the checklist with local and social media to encourage candidates to declare their approach to standards issues up front. We want voters to be able to make an informed judgement when casting their vote.
Last week the Committee was invited to present its report on local policing and PCCs ‘Tone from the Top’ at two separate events – a Local Government Association session for members of Police and Crime Panels, and a CoPaCC briefing for PCC candidates standing in May. The Committee’s presentation at both events focussed on accountability, leadership and the ethics of policing. As a new member of the Committee, I was fascinated by the questions and themes that emerged from both events.
The police and crime panel members – a cross section of local councillors - were keen to understand how their panels could be more effective, whether there was guidance for the behaviour expected of them and indeed, what they could expect from PCCs as the roles evolve and develop. There was also a shared sense of solidarity about wanting to make the system work and an acknowledgement that their expertise was better used when panels were included in the decision-making process as a broader, advisory group at the planning stages, rather than a more reactive scrutiny group pitched against the office of the PCC. It seemed to me to be an incredibly valuable insight for any PCC coming into the role.
There were around 20 candidate PCCs at the CoPaCC session - notably largely men, and mostly white at this particular event. The questions were focussed around the role, it was after all a briefing seminar, but also around the question of building, or indeed, re-building trust. There were some wonderfully frank and insightful anecdotes about the challenges facing policing, the struggle for adequate resources, and inevitably, the need for better leadership, greater accountability and ethics. When asked if they would sign up, and ask other candidates to sign up to the ethical checklist, there was a resounding agreement. To me, it was an encouraging sign of commitment to public service and the Nolan principles that the public, rightly, expect.