BBC poll: Crime commissioners still lack public profile

 
Woman tries to identify a picture of Durham police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg Not many people in Durham city centre recognised their police and crime commissioner Ron Hogg

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Their reigns started with more of a whimper than a bang.

A confused and disinterested public largely stayed at home last November as the country's police and crime commissioners were elected with a turnout of around 15%.

They have now had a year to establish themselves but has their public profile improved from such a shaky start?

BBC research

When I went into Durham city centre brandishing a picture of local commissioner Ron Hogg there were certainly some baffled faces.

Start Quote

Ron Hogg

In my policing plan I have community engagement as a key priority”

End Quote Ron Hogg Durham Police and Crime Commissioner

Some had no clue, others grasped he had something to do with politics. Only a couple of people recognised him as the commissioner - none could recall his name.

And research carried out by Comres for the BBC suggests that's all too common.

Although two-thirds of people polled in the North knew they had a commissioner, only 5% could name him or her.

It's something Ron Hogg says he is addressing. I followed him on one of his regular high street walkabouts in Chester-le-Street.

As he pressed the flesh and distributed leaflets, there was some more bafflement from members of the public, but some did also recognise him.

But he admits he and other commissioners are still far from household names.

He said: "It does worry me a bit because clearly if I am going to do the job I want to do, the more people who know what I am doing and how to get in contact with me the better.

"That's why events like a walkabout are so important. In my policing plan I have community engagement as a key priority."

Leaked expenses

Generating publicity can be a mixed blessing though.

Cumbria police and crime commissioner Richard Rhodes holding a meeting Cumbria's police and crime commissioner Richard Rhodes believes a row about his expenses hasn't damaged public confidence

Cumbria's commissioner Richard Rhodes hit the national headlines when details of his expenses were leaked.

He apologised and repaid the £700 spent on two chauffeur-driven limo journeys to meetings.

But the row rumbled on with a number of people arrested over the alleged leaking of the expenses claims. They won't now be charged, and Richard Rhodes has survived the fall-out.

And the Cumbrian commissioner believes neither he nor the office have been tarnished.

He said: "To be quite honest only once in 60 meetings has the expenses issue been raised.

"When I talk to people face-to-face they are interested in why eggs are being thrown at their front door, why is someone speeding past my house, why are people drunk on the streets on a Friday night instead of something that happened 10 months ago."

Opinion in the Comres survey though is mixed on the effectiveness of commissioners. 42% of those surveyed in the North thought they had made a positive difference to policing, but 34% thought they'd made no difference, and 8% thought the impact was negative.

More accountable

Start Quote

Lord Jeremy Beecham

We have far too much power concentrated in a single pair of hands”

End Quote Lord Jeremy Beecham Newcastle councillor

Mike Tonge, an ex-Chief Constable who now lectures in policing at the University of Cumbria, believes commissioners have more work to do.

He said: "This is a completely new role so they are having to learn on the job. We have some good examples where they have engaged with the public and taken the views of victims and tried to get the police to be more accountable.

"In other areas that has been less significant and the jury is still out on whether they are being effective or not."

Some though have already made their minds up. Former Newcastle Council leader Lord Jeremy Beecham opposed commissioners from the start, and he's convinced he's been proved right.

He said: "I'm afraid all my fears are being realised. We have far too much power concentrated in a single pair of hands in 43 police authorities throughout the country without any real accountability.

"In the North East we have three commissioners nominally responsible for an area stretching from the Tweed to the Tees. It's ridiculous."

Police and crime commissioners undoubtedly still have their critics then. But they do have time on their side. They have until the next election in May 2016 to make an impact and prove the doubters wrong.

 
Richard Moss, Political editor, North East & Cumbria Article written by Richard Moss Richard Moss Political editor, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    Let's just say that "it seemed like a good idea at the time" and wind this nonsense up, shall we?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 36.

    I wouldn't know who mine was or what he/she did. So I just had a look at his website, he wants to "Reduce crime" and "Reduce offending and re-offending". What does he think the police are trying to?

    If I could I would sack the lot and give the funds to front line police officers.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 35.

    I discovered on the local news that my PCC is an ex-MP who fell foul of the expenses scandal. I wouldn't recognise him if I fell over him, have no idea what he does or has done, and couldn't tell you his name if you paid me. All in all, a monumental waste of space and time.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 34.

    Yet another scheme to prove that paliament is doing something and another way of wasting money, just get rid of them, nobody will notice!!!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 33.

    If so few people know who their PCC is, or what they do, how can 42% of them come to the conclusion that they have had a positive difference on policing?

    The mind boggles.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 32.

    Apart from upsetting senior policemen and loosing essential skills, I have yet to hear of police commissioners doing anything positive.

    Each police area has a different commissioner working to different rules. That cannot be good for the police, but maybe good for the commissioners ego.

    The role is just a sinecure which has no relevance to policing.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 31.

    I see that at least one Police Commissioner is having similar expenses issues that MP's had a few years ago. Didn't take long.

    My police commissioner openly states on his website that he only want's to receive good news. He does not acknowledge or reply to emails that don't pat him on the back.

    Even office juniors answer their emails.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 30.

    I know that my Police Commissioner is called Matthew Ellis, but only because James Ellis played Sergeant Bert Lynch in Z Cars and it's sort of stuck in my mind.

    It does seem to be a largely irrelevant window-dressing exercise. I am unaware of any benefit that society has received, certainly nothing in line with the cost..

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 29.

    How do you expect people to recognise another Labor has been

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 28.

    I wouldn't! Moreover in my town the police are never on board when needed. Most nights fights and other incidents break out near my house - the policed are informed yet do not turn up. Last Friday I was outside a cab office waiting for my taxi home. Lo and behold a police car sped past & then returned! 2 officers questioned what I was up to. I responded politely.This country has gone to the dogs

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 27.

    I agree with 22 JDB. The salary and related costs of a PCC would be better used to get more police constables out there. Most people have not noticed a difference.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 26.

    I doubt very much if most people would recognise their MP, MEP or Local Councillor either so why the focus on the PCCs?

    A large swathe of people are just not interested in politics in this country.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 25.

    I get a copy of my PCC's monthly report by email, which I now delete without reading.
    I get far more from a verbal from our local PCSO; after all we're mainly interested in our own area, not some spin about police activities in the county.
    Which really brings me to the point of why haven't we ditched county forces for a national force?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 24.

    Yes I would recognise my PCC.

    I'd go up to her and tell her that she and her fellow PCCs should resign, close down their expensive and useless teams and let the public see a reduction in public spending of £100 million!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 23.

    look upon PCC's as tax collectors make no bones about it the games being played by forces cup and down the country will only mean higher taxation for us all and the PCC has been put there to collect it. by the way there is no limit placed on them as there is with local authorities so just a matter of time

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 22.

    How many P.C.s can I get for the cost of one P.C.C.?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 21.

    'I pledge to be a strong and effective voice for the public' a PCC

    What exactly has this guy to say, I've never heard his voice, never even heard of him

    In many cases the police appear to not know the law and make judgement and act without reference to somebody who does know the law. In what way will a PCC fill that massive gap

    Its just a ridiculous system

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 20.

    I wouldn't recognise my local PCC if I fell over him in the street. Which begs the question "What's he (or she) doing lying in the street anyway?"

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 19.

    Maybe when these guys come up for election we should have an option on ballot paper to vote for a candidate or choose to abolish the position altogether. By giving people the chance to abolish the position, is the only way to increase the turnout

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    PCCs & Batman are comic strip characters. No longer required.

 

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