PCC – critical friend or second Chief Constable?

Tom Lloyd is an International Drug Policy Adviser and former Chief Constable

On 22nd November 2012 the new Police and Crime Commissioners will take up their posts with the proper intention of ensuring that Chief Constables’ decisions reflect the priorities of the people they serve.

The challenge for the PCC is to exert that influence without impinging on the operational independence of the Chief Constable. It is quite clear that there should be no influence on decisions to arrest or prosecute alleged offenders, for example, but it becomes, for some, less clear when the longer term deployment of staff is concerned.

It may seem obvious that when a local priority is for “more community officers”, “more traffic cars” or “a Special Constable in every village” then the Chief Constable needs to respond directly and deploy officers accordingly. This, however, would amount to falling into three different and important traps.

First, the “priorities” identified are of the wrong order or type. They are in fact a request for resource “inputs” and not the “outcomes” that the PCCs should be identifying. PCCs should engage with the community by finding out what they want to improve – “outcomes” such as less crime, less disorder and fewer traffic collisions – not how the improvement should be achieved. That is a matter for professionals.

Second, deployment of staff, who and how many will work where and when, must remain the responsibility of the Chief Constable who has the detailed knowledge of staff, their skills and abilities, a responsibility for their health and safety as well as their training and development. Staff cannot be led by two masters.

And third, delivering successful outcomes it not just a matter of deploying more staff to deal with the issue. It will probably involve a complex mix of police staff and officers (warranted) with different knowledge and experience, partners who have knowledge and abilities to bear on the problem, members of the public themselves and a range of technological support. Simply throwing more and more officers at problems – more “bobbies on the beat” – is probably not the best way to deliver results in an increasingly complex policing environment.

The key point is not to jump to conclusions but to try to solve the problem, deliver the optimal outcome, in the most cost-effective way. And this is where the PCC can bring real benefits to the process. Although the Chief Constable will rely on a range of influences to make good decisions, including the new College of Policing, and should use evidence and proven good practice, ultimately the PCC will judge whether those decisions resulted in delivering the benefits that the local citizens identified as priorities.

The PCC should be remorselessly robust in demanding value for money, in insisting on best practice being followed (appropriately locally adapted), in encouraging innovation and in ensuring priority outcomes are achieved. Put simply, the PCC should ask the questions “Why?” and “Whether?” not “How?”.

This approach will properly challenge Chief Constables to do the very best with the resources they have. As well as insisting on the use of proven tactics, it will also drive experimentation, innovation and partnership working.

While we all share concerns about the role and impact of PCCs, we can take advantage of the inevitable by creating the role of critical friend rather than a second Chief Constable.

Tom Lloyd QPM MA (Oxon)

Chief Constable (retired)




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9 Responses to PCC – critical friend or second Chief Constable?

  1. These are very wise words from Tom who I think has hit the nail on the head.

    Far too many of the ‘pledges’ and promises made by the PCC candidates seem to revolve around inputs and outputs with precious little attention being paid to outcomes. Here for example is the Tory Candidate’s ‘manifesto’ for Thames Valley from his website (http://www.anthonystansfeld.org.uk/campaign-pledges) with my added notations in square brackets:

    If elected as the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony pledges:
    To reduce crime and drive up detection rates. [outcome + output]
    To maintain the balance between urban and rural policing. [input]
    To ensure that the Police budget is targeted effectively. [input]
    To protect vulnerable people. [outcome]
    To ensure the Police act firmly and fairly, using good judgement to deal with the public politely, gaining their respect and acting with integrity. [input + input + input + outcome + input]

    I would expect there are other examples from other manifestos of a similar and worrying mix. The are some fun times ahead as the PCCs and CCs square up to each other…

    Meanwhile, my ‘Secret PCC’ has, of course, developed a clear 10 point plan on how to tackle police officer and staff morale – a plan that any Chief would be unwise to challenge of course…


    • Rose Bowl says:

      Wise words from a notorious Chief Constable…

      The best thing that could have happened to Tom Lloyd as Chief Constable was to have a VERY critical friend in the form of a robust PCC…

      Of all the people that PCCs might take advice from, Tom Lloyd wouldn’t even feature on a list. Hang up the truncheon Tom. Its over………..

  2. Kevin Hurley says:

    An excellent and informative article. It outlines the potential pitfalls and possible relationship issues.
    Many candidates to date are already indicating they will step beyond setting priorities and the vision of the public.

    Essential reading for all candidates.

  3. I have to take issue with Mr Lloyd’s position. I speak from the perspective of having been a Beat Bobby many years ago but having spent twenty five years leading business transformation in both the public and private sectors. For the past decade, my work has included delivering strategic seminars and workshops that have included the enablement of neighbourghood partnerships to the governments of fourteen countries and over six hundred public sector organisations across the world.

    Mr Lloyd’s position is indicative of the malaise that has hamstrung British policing for too long. The MBA-style compartmentaisation of policing may be a convenient way of aligning with a risk strategy and key performance indicators but it is hugely inefficient. The reality is that many Chief Constables are already asking for more ‘Beat Bobbies’ because they recognise that an holistic view of policing within a community is the only way to properly engage with communities whilst preventing major issues from dropping between the cracks of multi-agency processes. Indeed, I heard the very same message from business leaders at a hustings event last night.

    Irrespective of the move of some forces back to a more traditional policing methodology (combined with modern partnerhsips and reactive policing), if the vast majority of citizens are demanding a return to having more ‘Bobbies on the Beat’ it is absolutely within the PCC’s remit to move to a strategy that includes that. In Derby, we have undertaken a 1,000 Citizen Survey that demonstrates exactly what the paying public want. Who is going to argue against that?


    • Theo Hopkins says:

      But we are told that “bobbies on the beat” have little effect on crime except in crime hotspots. So there could be a conflict with “what the public want” and “what the public need”.

      (Bobbies on the beat? Well, if I was to decide to speed on my local roads, the first thing I would do is check the mirror for police cars – and the two off-white unmarked BMWs I am told cruise around. Ditto if I’m about to rob someone on the street?)

  4. Theo Hopkins says:

    My Conservative PCC prospect says he will “[…] will look to recruit least 200 more Special Constables”. (And where I live, he has a 99% chance of winning the election)

    In light of this very interesting article/post, could someone say if this is a promise he can make?

    I would be pleased to hear what people say.


  5. Sceptical of PCC's (and increasingly being proved correct) says:

    I heard a Labour PCC candidate on the R4 Today programme stating that she wouldn’t allow ‘her’ officers to police the Badger cull in ‘her’ force area. Even when challenged on this point by the interviewer she defened her position saying that it was a matter of priorities and she couldn’t justify the abstration from front line duties.

    Now any such instruction would be unlawful but will a CC have the courage to say so?

    • Theo Hopkins says:

      Intresting one, this.
      I live in a rual area which will probaly have a badger cull next year (after the two delayed pilots). There are extemists on both sides – AR activists and “countrymen” who are already illegally shooting badgers. And rural opinion (which a PCC has to canvass) is deeply divided on the issue.
      The nearest pilot cull to me is Somerset. I wouldn’t want to be a PPC in Somerset and have this on my desk on 16th November.

  6. Sceptical of PCC's (and increasingly being proved correct) says:

    And there is a simple answer :-
    Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.

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