“Elected sheriffs” were first suggested in a pamphlet entitled “Direct Democracy” [link] written by Douglas Carswell (later the MP for Clacton), and published in October 2002. This was followed by a June 2007 paper entitled “Send for the Sheriff” [link], published by the Centre for Policy Studies, with the concept developed in a book “The Plan: Twelve Months to Renew Britain” [link] co-authored in 2008 by Douglas Carswell and Daniel Hannan MEP. Hannan contributed a Telegraph blog in September 2008, providing some further context [link].
The Conservative Party included a development of this concept in its 2010 General Election manifesto, an “Invitation to join the Government of Britain” [link], Here, they stated:
“Policing relies on consent. People want to know that the police are listening to them, and the police want to be able to focus on community priorities, not ticking boxes. We will replace the existing, invisible and unaccountable police authorities and make the police accountable to a directly-elected individual who will set policing priorities for local communities. They will be responsible for setting the budget and the strategy for local police forces, with the police retaining their operational independence”.
Following the 2010 General Election, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government issued “The coalition: our programme for government” [link]. This included a commitment that:
“We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives”.
This last phrase, “subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives”, paved the way for Police and Crime Panels to oversee the “sheriffs” or Police and Crime Commissioners as they subsequently became known.
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which introduced into legislation the role of PCCs and Panels, did not have a smooth passage through the Houses of Parliament – a process observed by Lord Toby Harris [link]. The Bill was heavily amended – for example, the restriction that PCCs could “serve only two terms of office” was in the original Bill but not the Act; and the date of the first PCC elections was moved from May to November 2012. It was subject to “ping pong” [link] between the House of Commons and of Lords between 12th to 14th September 2011. At around this time, the Local Government Association (LGA) suggested [link] that the legislation specify that a “Police Commission” should be created for each police force, “rather than a Police Commissioner”. In an interesting foretaste of the 2014 political debate about the future of PCCs, the LGA suggested:
“A Police Commission would be made up of a Police and Crime Panel and a Police and Crime Commissioner. However the Commissioner would be appointed by the Panel from amongst its members. The Commissioner would still be responsible for holding the chief constable to account, setting local policing priorities, agreeing strategic policing plans, setting the police precept and setting the police force budget. The Panel would continue to for hold responsibility for robustly scrutinising the work of the Commissioner”.