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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Clearly another disastrous Tory inspired policy failure.

    I suppose it could have been worse.

    We could have finished up with the former CEO of a British based bank fined $1,000,000,000 for engaging in criminality on a staggering scale.

    He did not come to Durham.

    He was invited to join 'Dodgy Dave's' government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    #55... Absolutely correct.....I did for mine and he won and I know his name! We only get a turn out of just over 30% in a GE....and Union turnouts ...well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    How many people can name, or would recognise, their Chief Constable, Council leader, MEP, even their MP? Hah - I thought not!

    The information is all there and easy to find for those who are genuinely interested/bothered. As are relevant minutes, reports, agendas, and other detail. Mind, that will not stop the usual band of grumpy, morose, anti-establishment suspects from having a whine on HYS!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I thought it was just another pension fund boosting opportunity for failed politicians, they don't actually do anything worthwhile

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    My PCC is Vera Baird, unfortunately ...

    She was MP for Redcar and then Solicitor General appointed by the Broon McGoon. She then tried to wriggle out of a driving ban after being repeatedly caught speeding. The PCC role should not be held by such a politicised hypocrite!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    What do PCC's do? So far ours has not crossed my radar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    People expect public employees to behave properly.

    Recently, for quite some time?, public employees have been getting away with all kinds of indiscretions and then simply moving on.
    Even getting elected as mayor.

    I blame the press and media for this.

    The culprits, when convicted in law, should be properly pilloried.
    Instead they hold news conferences and simply carry on.
    No wonder folk despair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The question we perhaps should ask is how PCCs perform compared to the previous arrangements?
    Taking account of any differences in powers and responsibilities.
    Not sure whom we could trust to produce such information given the politicisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    When Union Leaders are elected and strike action decided on votes with a turn out of 30% of members, Tory politicians rail against the legitimacy of the result yet they are quite happy to see PCC's elected with a 15% turn out. PCCs are an irrelevancy in the fight against crime. Worse they use up valuable resources that could be better used. Yet another example of politicians protecting their own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Ignore them and treat them with the contempt that their unwanted and unnecessary political appointment deserves. By not giving them a voice, we will eventually show them to be irrelevant.
    I don't expect this goverment to admit they were wrong and change the system, but this approach will empower the next one to do so.
    I spoilt my ballot paper too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I spoil t my papers in the vote for the PCC's in protest against the politicization of the police and the moving of responsibilities for the cuts the police are suffering away from the government that is imposing them.
    The imposition of the PCC's has been a costly exercise for the taxpayer with little or no improvement in policing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I voted for our PCC.....and I don't intend to start judging him on what he has achieved in just 12 months. Are our MPs judged on what they have or have not achieved in their first 12 months......they are given 5 years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I did vote for my PCC as it is better than nothing but would rather have been able to vote for my Chief Constable

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    No wonder people are disinterested; jobs for the boys and superannuated politicians.
    People have more things to be concerned about like getting to work and paying the bills.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    PCC Durham quote "the more people who know what I am doing" But why ? How many could have named the Chief Constable ? It is only an ego -trip they are on! As long as the police do their job what does it matter - but doesn't a PCC imply that a Chief Constable isn't doing his job properly ? Or is it a 'jobs for the boys' agenda we have here - and if you do as we say, there might be a peerage

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    It is lazy thinking to expect police commissioners to do dance routines in the streets to get attention.

    For just a little effort, info on them can be found on the web in a few clicks or tablet taps or smartphone swipes..

    Those who say they don't know about the commissioners are probably not interested and almost certainly knew nothing of the the police committees/authorities they replaced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    A job for the boys job if ever there was one. Totally pointless waste of time and money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    The main concern of PCCs seems to be to maximise their own expenses. Whatever happened to the idea of public service where people were happy to give up their time for free to help the community? Nick Clegg doesn't known the name of his PCC and he is deputy Prime Minister of the government that introduced them. This is just a job creation scheme for mediocre failed politicians which has no value.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I appear to be a lone voice, but I have had dealings with two PCCs, and both of them were genuine in their efforts to help to improve the service offered by their respective police forces.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Strange they exist at all given the Tory drive of cutting public spending.

    Apart from a piece of paper through the door I can't think of a time when the subject has ever crossed my mind. Never heard of them doing anything that's for sure.


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