Written evidence submitted by Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) (POP0083)


Home Affairs Select Committee – Policing Priorities




  1. This submission has been made by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), the home of policing governance.


  1. The APCC is the national membership body for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners (PFCCs), Deputy Mayors and other local policing bodies across England and Wales. It supports them to fulfil their statutory role and deliver their priorities in their local police force areas, while providing national leadership and driving strategic change across policing, criminal justice, and the wider community safety landscape, to help to cut crime and keep communities safe.


  1. This submission has drawn on the views of APCC members and the positions of our national policy portfolios. It is focused on areas where we believe there is broad consensus among APCC members, but we note that there may be differences in views on some policy aspects.


What a modern police service, fit for the 2020s and beyond, looks like


  1. The police service must continue to adapt to the challenges of the modern policing environment. To be fit for purpose the workforce must be appropriately skilled and representative of the community it serves, agile and innovative enough to deal with long-standing and emerging crime trends, and transparent and accountable to the public with robust governance systems in place.


  1. Elected for the first time, nearly ten years ago, PCCs have given the public a stronger voice in policing than they have had previously. Through their Police and Crime Plans, PCCs are engaging with local people on their priorities and making sure they are reflected in the strategic priorities of Chief Constables, whom PCCs hold to account. The need for transparency and public involvement in policing is fundamental to modern day policing and dates back to the Peelian Principles.


  1. Policing must continue to provide an effective response to crime but preventing it from occurring in the first place is essential.


  1. A modern police force also needs to ensure that victims are at the heart of the system and PCCs, who are responsible for commissioning victim services locally, have helped to ensure that there is a relentless focus on ensuring that this is the case.


  1. The police service must be accessible to all and must continue to enable digitisation and deliver efficient services to benefit the public it serves. Newly emerging ways of contacting the police, such as web chat, online forms, and messaging over social media, present significant opportunities to speed up responses and open lines of communication with people who might not be comfortable using traditional methods.


  1. An agile and whole-system response is required for policing to respond to the transforming digital world and the threats that come with it, including economic and cyber-crime, and serious and organised crime. To deliver the critical infrastructure and digital programmes to respond effectively, policing needs continued support and commitment from the Government.


  1. Police will also continue to build on data analytics, algorithms and artificial intelligence capabilities going forwards, to enhance data quality, facilitate data-sharing and extract insights. Whilst maintaining public trust through rigorous ethical standards, police will utilise the value of data, resulting in proactive solutions to protect the public through innovative digital tools such as facial recognition.


  1. The technological opportunities offered in the 2020s should greatly improve public contact with police through the use of digital tools. In the next decade, there will be significant expansion and integration of channels the public can choose to engage with the police. The public will be able to contact the police through relevant digital channels, submit evidence and self-service for low-risk situations. The Digital Public Contact (DPC) Programme leads national work on all things digital in the public/police interface. It manages and develops the Single Online Home (SOH), which is the national police digital platform, as well as POLICE.UK, and the social media operating model deployment in policing. This all reduces the excessive demand on 101 and 999 services, as well as transforming victims’ interface with policing, and we will continue to see these benefits going forwards.


  1. With the Government committed to achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, PCCs have a critical role to play in ensuring that their forces, commissioned services, and offices are utilising environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. If no action is taken, the implications for policing could include growing protest movements, increased civil emergencies such as flooding, and additional demand to enforce new legislative restrictions against those causing harm to the environment.


  1. We know that climate change is an important issue for the British public, giving PCCs a strong mandate as the public’s voice to ensure that policing is striving to meet the challenges of climate change and taking steps to mitigate any risks that it poses. PCCs are already taking this issue seriously, with three-quarters having set priorities within their local Police and Crime Plans linked to environment and sustainability.


  1. There are many more PCCs who are developing their work-place practices and cultures to support the environment and sustainability. Further information can be found in the APCC’s Environment and Sustainability In-Focus report, published in August 2022, which highlights how PCCs are working to influence our relationship with the natural environment for the better.


What balance police forces in England and Wales should strike between a focus on preventing and solving crime and carrying out their other functions


  1. The first Peelian Principle, that the basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder, is as fundamental now as it was nearly 200 years ago. Prevention and early intervention are key in order to cut crime and keep communities safe and are important areas of focus for PCCs. Ten years ago, only 20 per cent of Police and Crime Plans referenced prevention, but now all include it as a priority, demonstrating the commitment of PCCs to tackle the root causes of crime.


  1. PCCs are working to build safer communities, developing prevention initiatives that have been proven to reduce crime, and working with local partners in areas relating to social care, mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and use of police custody, getting support to the most vulnerable while reducing the pressures on police resources.


  1. Nationally, the APCC has a prevention portfolio, and the NPCC has a prevention business area with a dedicated lead, further demonstrating the growing focus on prevention from PCCs and Chief Constables. HMICFRS, the policing inspectorate, also now focus on prevention within their PEEL approach to force inspections. This national activity is brought together by various working groups, including a Public Health Taskforce, that bring together national partners and subject matter experts to encourage and progress prevention and early intervention activities.


  1. People may be more likely to commit crime where there are underlying issues in their lives such as drug or alcohol dependence, mental and physical health issues, housing or homelessness, or problems with money or relationships. There are obvious benefits to getting prevention right for policing, but also for wider criminal justice and health partners, for example, fewer crime-related injuries mean fewer people in hospital seeking medical treatment. Benefits can also be societal, such as increased feelings of safety among the public if more crime is prevented.


  1. Effective prevention requires partners to work together to develop whole-system approaches to community safety, with PCCs uniquely placed to lead this, working closely with Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs), Health and Wellbeing Boards and other local partnership bodies.


  1. PCCs also have a hugely important role in tackling the scourge of serious violence in our communities and are leading partnership work in 20 areas to establish and deliver multi-agency Violence Reduction Units (VRUs). These units bring together expertise from education, health, local government, the voluntary and third sector, law enforcement and other agencies to better understand and tackle the root causes and to reduce levels of serious violence – this includes, for example, preventing vulnerable young people being recruited into gangs and County Lines style drug trafficking.


  1. The Public Health Approach applied to preventing serious violence, and importantly supported by Government with essential funds, has been fundamental in bringing policing’s focus toward prevention and early intervention, and supporting local partnerships on prevention. There is a window of opportunity to roll out this approach to other areas of crime and target the causes of offending behaviour by working closely with policing, PCCs and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID).


  1. One of the key challenges for effective partnership work on prevention is that partners can retreat into a focus on their core functions, unless incentivised to engage. Legislated duties – such as the Serious Violence Duty or those within the Crime and Disorder Act – placed on partners can aid the focus on prevention.


  1. There is also a need to prevent non-crime demand and ensure police resources can be focused on preventing and solving crime. An example of this is mental health demand, which continues to negatively impact policing resources. Greater investment in mental health support – including prevention and treatment – would enable policing to focus on its core duties and responsibilities.


  1. Additionally, ringfenced and sustainable funding can help ensure policing maintains its focus on prevention. For example, the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund, first introduced in 2020, has successfully enabled PCCs and local authorities to bid for significant investment into prevention initiatives to make communities safer. This has been an extremely useful funding pot welcomed by PCCs as an enabler to support local efforts to prevent crime.


  1. PCCs have used this funding to tackle neighbourhood crime, anti-social behaviour (ASB), and violence against women and girls (VAWG) alongside other crimes. For example, in the latest round of the Safer Streets Fund, the Merseyside PCC secured almost £580,000 to expand a local campaign to tackle VAWG by making improvements to the public transport network to help increase women’s feelings of safety, including increased uniform presence around transport hubs in Liverpool city centre, and dedicated student nights on the main bus route and increased CCTV cameras. In addition, the Gloucestershire PCC was awarded almost £750,000 to help tackle ASB in a number of ways, including through the implementation of six new Police Community Support Officers – one for each district – to deal with low-level ASB, as well as outreach and diversionary activities for young people, and a children’s education project designed to facilitate restorative conversations at a primary school level.


  1. PCCs across England and Wales have been able to utilise this fund to implement similar initiatives, using this important funding to support their local communities and help keep people safe. Should this funding be removed, it would undo a great deal of progress made by PCCs in delivering preventative activities that have supported key priorities in the Government’s Beating Crime Plan, including tackling VAWG and ASB. Although it is very welcome, the current drip-feed approach associated with Safer Streets, which requires PCCs to bid for these funds each year, can lead to bidding fatigue and uncertainty, so it could be helpful to instead focus on further embedding prevention within policing.


What roles police forces should prioritise


  1. PCCs, working closely with their Chief Constables, set the strategic priorities for their local force area. Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must set the police and crime objectives for their area through a Police and Crime Plan (PCP). In addition to the duty to issue a PCP, in its development the PCC must have regard to the Strategic Policing Requirement (SPR) set by the Home Secretary. The plan must set out the PCC’s policing and crime objectives, details of grants made to partners, resources the chief police officer will be given and how they will be held to account and assessed. Both the PCC and the Chief Constable must have regard to the PCP.


What can be done to improve community policing and increase trust in police officers and forces, including on funding and on disciplinary powers when police officer behaviour falls below required standards


  1. A high degree of public confidence in the police is paramount if the service is going to deliver. As previously set out, PCCs have a crucial role in building public trust and confidence in the police. They are elected by the public to hold the Chief Constable and the local police force to account and have a vital role to play in developing police performance, ensuring a transparent policing system, criminal justice system, and in improving the response to police complaints both locally and nationally.


  1. An important element of this work is to understand what the public consider to be the critical components in rebuilding trust and confidence within policing, which may differ across different sectors of communities and in different regions. To help ensure transparency in their local communities, many PCCs host regular Public Accountability Meetings, which are jointly hosted between the PCC and Chief Constable and can be attended or watched online by members of the public. Updates are given and questions can be asked, providing an outlet for the public to engage with local policing partners, improving transparency.


  1. Many PCCs also have independent scrutiny panels covering particular areas of focus, which are made up of members of the public from diverse groups who assist them in their scrutiny roles. This is an important component of public involvement in scrutiny in relation to issues such as Stop and Search, and through this can help to increase transparency and public confidence.


  1. On instances where officer behaviour falls below the appropriate standard, PCCs are keen to work with the Home Office and other national policing partners to ensure that there is a robust and future-proofed process in place for dealing with police misconduct issues fairly, transparently and rooting out examples of poor behaviour at an early stage.


What steps can be taken to improve national conviction rates, including via relationships with other bodies such as the Crown Prosecution Service


  1. A partnership approach is essential to improving the criminal justice system, in which PCCs have a critical role. They are ideally placed to convene local partners to ensure the whole criminal justice system works together, as they play a lead role in chairing Local Criminal Justice Boards (LCJBs), which bring together police, courts, prisons, probation, local authorities, the third sector and others to work as a whole system to bring offenders to justice and to reduce re-offending.


  1. Part Two of the PCC Review, set out by the Home Secretary, included recommendations to put LCJBs on a statutory footing, recognising the critical role these Boards play in mobilising agencies to work together more effectively. These further levers will enable PCCs to play a more integral role in improving the criminal justice journey for victims and witnesses.


  1. Policing must have a light shone on the way it investigates offences, how it gathers evidence and builds a file that covers all the points to prove against an individual. In their role providing oversight, PCCs can drive improvements through scrutiny of investigative processes and by ensuring their local forces invest in well trained detectives. PCCs also support a review of the way crimes are recorded to improve public transparency, as statistics must reflect the true nature of crime occurring in local communities to ensure integrity in the system.


  1. Early engagement with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) through early investigative advice supports the building of a strong case against an individual. PCCs can drive this behaviour locally through their role as LCJB chairs. Reducing the time from offence to court hearing is another practical way to improve case outcomes, as the shorter the time to trial, the easier it is for witnesses and victims to give clear evidence against an offender. In addition, confronting an offender with digital material such as CCTV, body worn video footage or forensic evidence, thereby showing the strength of the case against them, would drive an increase in guilty plea rates.


  1. The courts backlog must also be tackled if national conviction rates are to be improved. PCCs were concerned about the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system for some time, even before COVID-19, which exacerbated the problem. The situation is critical and there is an urgent need for action to address the backlog, which is having a serious impact on victims, who face a long wait to obtain justice. Changing how the system deals with crown court trials and the criteria for cases being sent to trial in crown court could help. Although there is no one solution to this issue, innovative use of technology could assist, such as wider adoption of video technology to support remote hearings. An example of notable practice in this area is the Video Enabled Justice (VEJ) programme being led by the Sussex PCC, which has been working to digitally transform the criminal justice system, including by implementing the VEJ video manager solution, designed to ensure hearings can be progressed without delay to the courts, mitigating the risk of a backlog of cases.



November 2022