We were alerted to the very first decision of any PCC in the country early this Sunday morning. The new PCC for Lincolnshire, Alan Hardwick, has decided to scrap plans for a new custody suite at Police HQ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-lincolnshire-20376836 and many are immediately applauding this as a strong move against “privatisation” as the contractor is the infamous G4S.
However I can’t help wondering if this is a worrying sign of the interference of the #PCC with the operational independence of the Chief Constable. Mr Hardwick says: “I don’t think it makes operational sense to have that sort of building in that location”. How does he know, and if he does, why does he know?
I assume a great deal of thought by the Police Authority and Chief Constable went into deciding the best location for this particular custody suite. It is about four miles from the centre of Lincoln; does this mean more travelling for city centre officers or less travelling and easier access (parking, etc.) for some officers and the lawyers, relatives, interpreters, social workers, Forensic Medical Examiners and others who will use the facilities? I don’t know the answer, but it does seem that a decision made within a couple of days of being elected (not actually having taken office) is premature and procedurally irregular.
At the least this quick decision may show a lack of courtesy if the PCC didn’t consult with the Chief Constable before announcing his decision. At most it may reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of what should underpin the role of the PCC.
The PCC should identify priority outcomes for the Chief Constable to deliver (https://tomclloyd.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/pcc-critical-friend-or-second-chief-constable/) by devising policing strategies and tactics, involving technological and logistical support as necessary. This will include the provision of appropriate accommodation.
The nature and location of the accommodation must be designed in order to support the policing functions – form follows function. Clearly the funding authority, the PCC, must play a key role in determing what and where accommodation is provided. However, it should be a decision clearly based on a rationale that supports operational policing not, as I suspect, a political gesture.
I may have misinterpreted this instance but I think it means that we have to be vigilant in ensuring that the PCCs focus on supporting outcomes that benefit the citizens they serve.