Policing in England and Wales is under more scrutiny than ever, following high-profile criminal and disciplinary cases involving police officers, low charging and detection rates (not least for rape and sexual offences cases), and lingering concerns about how forces deal with women and people from minority communities.
On 21 July 2022, the Home Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the priorities of policing at a time when public confidence in the police is low and six of the nation’s forces have been hit with special measures. The Committee will publish its final report in early 2023. Dr. Simon Cooper responded to the Committee’s call for evidence.
Dr Cooper’s research, previously reported exclusively in The Times and published in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, found that Police and Crime Panels (PCPs), introduced as part of flagship Conservative reforms in 2011 are ‘toothless’, leaving police accountability, for the first time in history, largely dependent on the one-to-one relationships between Chief Constables and elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).
His submission to the Home Affairs Committee argues that the relational accountabilities of Chief Constables, PCCs and PCPs are unbalanced, untested, and risky.
In addition to recommending that the role and powers of PCPs be strengthened, a key conclusion of his submission is that the Home Secretary must exercise their statutory power and consult with the parties bound by the Policing Protocol to examine if the Policing Protocol should be varied or possibly replaced.
Notably, Dr. Cooper’s submission also calls on the Home Secretary to introduce a Memorandum of Understanding to bind PCCs and Chief Constables to ensure ‘effective, constructive working relationships’ are not just a quixotic pursuit but a practical reality that helps safeguard the accountability and governance of policing.
Dr. Cooper’s previous work was cited by the House of Commons in its 2021 report on Police and Crime Commissioners and the House of Lords in its 2022 report on Police and Crime Commissioners: Powers and Functions. Previous recommendations made by him were also adopted by the Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales in 2022.