I absolutely understood, and to an extent shared, the concerns of the many thousands of people who were concerned that the election of Police and Crime Commissioners would lead to the politicisation of local police forces along party lines.

What I didn’t understand was the view, often shared by the same people, that only someone who had been a senior police officer could be an effective PCC. I’ve seen the same arguments made about why only ex-probation officers should head up probation trusts.

And I have to say, I just don’t get it.

Just look at football. For every Brian Clough, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klinsmann, there is a Mark Hughes, Roy Keane and Paul Ince.

The playing careers of Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho are nothing to write home about either.

It’s not that ex-police officers won’t make good PCCs, I’m sure that several of the eight who were elected will do so.

I just don’t agree with the assumption that having been a copper should be written into the job description.

Of course, police officer PCCs will have the advantage of understanding the realities of day-to-day policing and the culture of the force. But they will also have a number of disadvantages:

  • How many Chief Constables will be delighted to be accountable to someone who reached an inferior rank to their own?
  • PCCs have no choice but to implement national budget cuts (albeit with important decisions about how to cut and whether to raise the precept to lessen the impact). Will frontline officers feel betrayed by one of their own?
  • The PCC role is much broader than policing, will police officer PCCs be too focused on the police alone?

PCCs are now a reality. The next four years will show which of them have the skills to make a success of the job. My top five skills would be:

  1. Leadership
  2. Explain policing and the wider criminal justice system to the public
  3. Get criminal agencies working in co-operation, not competition
  4. Make budget cuts that eliminate waste not cost jobs
  5. Engage a wide range of agencies and communities in working with the criminal justice system

What are yours?


By Russ Webster