As we mark 2018 National Democracy Week, I am reminded again of the core democratic purpose of my role as a Police and Crime Commissioner.
The model of British policing, envied around the world, has always been at its best when defined by the establishing principles of Sir Robert Peel. As far back as 1829, he made clear that for policing to be both effective and just, it had to be consistent with our values as a democratic society. The tradition holds that ‘the police are the public, and the public are the police’; that policing is by consent, and its success depends on public approval, respect and co-operation.
By electing Police and Crime Commissioners, the British people breathed new life into that ambition. For the first time, we who are making the big decisions about the future of policing, the use of public money, and the commissioning of services, are answerable directly to the public. The over nine million votes cast in 2016 have empowered PCCs to put transparency, accountability and public engagement back at the heart of policing.
Democratic engagement doesn’t stop at the ballot box. PCCs currently receive thousands of emails, letters and phone calls from our constituents every month, and we are active in our communities, hearing first hand of the issues that matter most to the people we represent. My colleagues and I have made sure that these everyday concerns are now heard loud and clear in the corridors of power, and by working closely with our partners in the police we are ensuring that the challenges facing policing in England and Wales today are increasingly understood by decision makers in Parliament – including on the critical issues of police funding, changing demands on police time, and protection for police officers on the front line.
We are ambitious about bringing that same level of democratic engagement to other areas of public service. An increasing number of PCCs are taking on responsibility for fire and rescue services locally, and we are working now with the Government to expand our roles supporting victims of crime, reforming the criminal justice system, and bringing local services together to deliver for the public more efficiently and effectively than we can alone.
All Police and Crime Commissioners swear a solemn oath upon election – to serve the people without fear or favour, to act with integrity and transparency, to ensure the police are able to cut crime and protect the public, and to give a voice to the public in all that we do. The office of the Police and Crime Commissioner has done so much to bring democratic accountability to policing and we will always strive to do more on behalf of those we represent.
David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire