Lack of public trust in elected Police Commissioners

30 March 2011

Today a YouGov poll, conducted on behalf of Liberty, suggested little public appetite for Government proposals for Police and Crime Commissioners. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which reaches its report stage today in the House of Commons, would abolish police authorities, replacing them with directly elected individuals who would oversee local police forces and hold Chief Constables to account – compromising the police’s political independence.

Only 15% of those polled said they would trust an elected Police and Crime Commissioner more than the present system to protect their family from crime. In addition to undermining independence, elected Commissioners could put more pressure on police to use powers in a way which meets a political agenda rather than serving the community as a whole.

Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: 

"Britain has a policing model much admired around the world and the police’s political independence is as important as that of the Courts.  Directly elected Police Commissioners not only compromise autonomy but as our poll shows undermine trust in the community they serve.”

The Commissioners will be elected by the public for a four year term, with a maximum of two terms, starting in 2012.  They will be responsible for hiring and firing the Chief Constable as well as securing the maintenance of the police force - ensuring the force is efficient and effective.  They will also set the area policing plan and budget.

Contact: Liberty’s press office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128 

Notes to editors

1. All figures unless otherwise stated are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,391 adults.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 27th – 28th March 2011.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).  For a copy of the full results please contact the Liberty press office.  Respondents were asked:

At present each part of Britain has an independent non-political Chief Police Constable.  He or she reports to a Police Authority made up of local councillors and independent members from the community.  The Government is proposing that this model should be scrapped and that each police chief should be directly answerable to an individual politician called a police and crime commissioner.    

Who would you trust more to protect your family from crime?

  • A Chief Constable reporting to a Police Authority, as now – 65%
  • A Chief Constable reporting to an individual politician elected as a Police and Crime Commissioner – 15%
  • Don’t know – 20%

     

2. Liberty’s briefing on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill can be found here: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy11/liberty-s-report-stage-briefing-on-part-1-of-the-police-reform-bill-march-20.pdf