Post by Matthew Davies, DPhil candidate

In 2012, the coalition government introduced Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across England and Wales with the aim of making the police more democratically accountable. PCCs are elected individuals with powers to set policing budgets, determine police priorities and hire and fire chief constables in their local force areas. The election of 41 PCCs around England and Wales was intended by government to be one of the key mechanisms of re-connecting the police with the public. However, the handling of the first ever elections and the subsequent poor turnout, amongst other subsequent challenges, has meant that the policy is still regarded as ‘on probation’ (Home Affairs Select Committee, 2014).

I have recently produced a report for the Police Foundation that identifies some of the fundamental challenges surrounding the elections and suggests recommendations for the future. The report considers how PCC candidates faced a series of obstacles, ranging from prohibitively large deposits through to difficulties involving the eligibility of certain candidates. The report also explores the issues around poor voter turnout, which at just 15%, represented the lowest ever turnout in British electoral history. It argues that these challenges will need to be addressed in time for the next elections in 2016 if PCCs are to bridge the purported democratic gap in policing.