Commissioners are elected representatives who have the role of securing efficient and effective policing of police policy area thus replacing police authorities. The police and Crime commissioner post was created in England and Wales and its numbers were elected on November the 15th 2012.
There has been consensus amongst the current Conservative- Liberal democrat coalition in terms of need to reform assisting police authorities due to lack of accountability currently seen in the system. The government’s vision for policing including the introduction of police and crime commissioners was published in the Policing in the 21st century consultation.
Police crime commissioners will be required to swear an oath of impartiality which will include promises such as ‘I will not seek to influence or prevent any lawful and reasonable investigation or arrest’. This will have a significant impact on accountability as if police crime and commissioner actions are seen to be unlawful in anyway, they can be held accountable to their oath. This is aimed at levelling out the Labour argument that the move to introduce the role politicises policing.
More accountability and efficiency can also be seen through the fact that police and crime commissioners must produce a police and crime plan. This not only means that an outline of objectives for policing can be used to refer back to keep police and crime commissioners in check but an annual report will also have to be produced to the public on progressive policy. The biggest form of increase in accountability will be the establishment of police and crime panels which were created under the police reform and social responsibility act 2011.
These panels will be responsible for scrutinising commissioner decisions and ensuring this information is available to the public. They have the role of reviewing draft policies, crime plans, and draft annual reports before publication to avoid any excessive or questionable force of action slipping through the system. The panel also have the power to suspend the commissioner from office where he or she is charged with a serious criminal offence.
However, where the introduction of police and crime commissioner can be seen as impacting the policing system positively through increasing the level of accountability, it has been subjected to some criticisms. Critics have argued that the crime and commissioner timetable has been criticised for being unrealistic, the newly elected watchdogs will only have until January 31st to balance and deliver the two main duties of their role. Critics claim the rushed timetable will mean the commissioners will have little impact or influence in their first year and even warned it could lead to mistakes due to the very short time frame which new Police and Crime commissioners will have to draw up their budgets. Accountability can also be questioned as turnout was on average 14.9%, leading to questions about the actual point in the role. Additionally, 29 elected Police and Crime Commissioners are party political.