Essex research informs police review

  • Date

    Wed 9 Mar 22

A male police officer, seen from behind, stands in the middle of a road with his hands clasped behind his back and the word 'Police' clearly visible on the back of his uniform

Research by Dr Simon Cooper, on police accountability and the role of Police and Crime Commissioners, has been cited in a major nationwide review of policing.

The Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, which was conducted by the Police Foundation and chaired by Sir Michael Barber, has called for a radical shake-up of the way forces are run.

It cites research by Dr Cooper, from the School of Law, which showed that the power of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to remove Chief Constables from office is having a “corrosive” effect on policing and police accountability.

Drawing on Dr Cooper’s research, which was published in The Criminal Law Review (Issue 4, 2020), the Strategic Review specifically highlights his finding that a vital independent review process, meant to safeguard against a compromised PCC wrongly removing a Chief Constable from office, has only been used once since 2012 and didn’t impact the decision.

The authors of the report note that “such untrammelled power in the hands of one person has created job insecurity throughout the Chief Constable rank and this in turn has led to increased churn and reduced tenure.”

Dr Cooper said: “Policing is at an inflection point. The Strategic Review comes at a time when public confidence is low and policing is under pressure. The Strategic Review will help shape the future of policing.

“The interviews I conducted find the PCC’s power to remove Chief Constables has already compromised the independence of senior officers. As currently formulated, the PCC’s s.38 power creates an environment in which it would be possible for a PCC – effectively a lay person – to command, overrule and potentially even control a Chief Constable. We urgently require a Select Committee inquiry to re-examine the PCC’s power to remove their Chief Constable.”

Dr Cooper’s research was based on a series of interviews with PCCs, Chief Constables and members of Police and Crime Panels (PCPs), as well as the person responsible for introducing the current system and one of the most senior figures in policing at a national level.