The policing minister has been urged to consider a proposal to make police and crime commissioners (PCC) swear an oath before taking up office.
The Association of Police Authorities (APA) and the Association of Police Authority Chief Executives (APACE) have written a letter to Nick Herbert saying an oath will send a “powerful message” to local communities as well as remind candidates of their responsibilities to the public.
The joint letter, written by Councillor Mark Burns-Williamson, chair of the APA, and Fraser Sampson, chair of APACE, said:
Police and Crime Commissioners – Assurance and Attestation
The APA and APACE have been working closely together to ensure a positive and seamless transition from the existing governance arrangements to those prescribed in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Act 2011. As we move from consideration of the broader conceptual areas to some of the more practical outputs that will be needed, a number of proposals have begun to emerge. One such proposal is a form of attestation of the local PCC before taking up office.
You will be familiar with the concerns expressed by many stakeholder groups about the objectivity of PCCs in implementing their specific local policies within the overarching expectations of their wider public office. In other words how they will balance their manifesto with their mandate.
This balancing requirement, of course, applies to all individual holders of public office including police officers. One way in which this can be both signalled and achieved is by a requirement for individuals to swear and oath of office before taking up their role. It is our collective view that having such an oath for PCCs would provide a number of immediate and obvious benefits. First it would send a powerful message to their local communities, their partners and colleagues in the police service. Secondly it would remind successful candidates of the public expectations attending their accession to a responsible position and would commit them personally to meeting an appropriate standard of conduct. Finally the ceremony itself would be highly symbolic and mark a positive foundation for their administration, something that we believe will be of particular importance in the first tranche of elections.
As you will be aware, Parliament has (by virtue of s.70 of the Act) required all elected PCCs to sign a statutory declaration before they can begin to discharge their duties and functions. The manner and form of the declaration is to be prescribed by the Secretary of State in the form of regulations and can involve a local magistrate.
It strikes us that this provides an ideal opportunity for the Government to set the tone for the new PCCs and for the PCCs to pledge themselves to a higher purpose and a set of principles that sit above any specific interests or policies.
The content of the oath would require careful consideration and would probably incorporate some of the other standards and aspirations set out in other relevant documents (such as the Nolan Principles and the Official Secrets Act 1989).
We have raised this suggestion in a number of settings with officials and sincerely hope that you will give it serious consideration. We remain positive about the prospects of a successful transition and look forward to working with you in 2012.