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November 2012 saw the first elections of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs). An important part of the Government’s localism agenda, PCCs replaced police authorities in each police force area outside London. The system is different in London, where the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime took over from the Metropolitan Police Authority in January 2012.

Turnout in the PCC elections on 15 November 2012 averaged 14.7% across all 41 police areas. 16 Conservative, 13 Labour and 12 Independent candidates were elected.

The core functions of the PCC are similar to those of the police authorities they replaced. They appoint, and if necessary remove, the chief constable; they set the budget and the Council Tax precept; and set local policing priorities.

PCCs are scrutinised by Police and Crime Panels (PCPs), who have a veto over the appointment of chief constables and the setting of the precept; however, exercising this veto would require a two thirds majority of the PCP membership. PCPs are made up of councillors and independents.

The issue of Chief Constables’ operational independence was controversial when the legislation was going through Parliament. PCCs have to swear an oath of impartiality, and a Policing Protocol sets out that Chief Constables remain operationally independent. Nevertheless, there have been clashes with chief constables in some forces, resulting in some resignations and, in one case, suspension, judicial review and reinstatement. The Home Affairs Committee has considered this issue and recommended that police and crime panels should fully exercise their powers of scrutiny in relation to proposed removals of chief constables.

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