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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

The lived experiences of Police and Crime Commissioners in the early years of their tenure in England and Wales.

Cliff, David (2017) The lived experiences of Police and Crime Commissioners in the early years of their tenure in England and Wales. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


The 41 Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) elected in 2012 are a recent addition to developing, informing and holding to account the police and their processes. Their key roles: to develop police plans; to hold Chief Constables to account; and to connect with communities, are controversial and they exist at the interface of a wide range of governmental and community systems. This has elicited a range of approaches and strategies as they attempt to execute their role in a strategic territory that is complex, diverse, rapidly changing and subject to unprecedented real terms resource reduction. Any attempt to research the leadership and other developmental needs of this group has to be predicated by a greater appreciation of this complex environment. This doctoral thesis attempts to make sense of the early years incumbency of the PCCs, by focusing on the lived experience of a cross section of them, drawing insights into the challenges they face and their support and developmental needs.
Thematic content analyses of semi-structured interview data reveal four key findings, which have serious implications for the leadership role of PCCs in the UK in a fast-changing, dynamic 21st Century policing and crime prevention environment. First, the data reveal that after a turbulent start born of rapid implementation, debates over democratic legitimacy and unprecedented media forces, PCCs would appear to access the public and influence local agendas far more than their predecessor governance structures. Second, PCCs organisationally separate, but nonetheless dyadic role with Chief Constables, appears mediated by their ultimate accountability to the electorate in the communities they serve. This appears to offer an opportunity for both greater police accountability suffused with support in ensuring that local policing occurs in a manner that balances the often competing needs of communities against an increasingly austere funding landscape. This austerity requires radical changes of practice and policies and new, often innovative and inclusive resource partnerships with the community. Third, early experiences of PCCs were in many cases avoidably turbulent and institutional, skills and other support needs of PCCs have yet to crystallise however insights still have been gained. Finally, PCCs are significant change agents within the organisational system they serve offering both a proto experience for proposed mayoral strategies being introduced by government and fuelling the debate about how mayoral structures will stand alongside PCCs. The debate about the inclusion of the public in law enforcement and their systemic inclusion as a collective actor within an organisational framework that encompasses large social fields, lends itself to increasing use of Distributed Leadership approaches by many PCCs.
The major limitations of this study include: the challenges involved in accessing elite posts; the rapidly changing politico-economic environment, coupled with changes in the nature of the post itself (its political uncertainty and potentially short lifespan by dint of the variant policies of political parties); participants in the study, were predominantly male and all from Labour, or Tory orientation; and the fact that opportunities to interview Independent PCCs did not present themselves as hoped which may have added an additional dimension to perceptions on the nature of democracy in the role. Thus, four potential areas for further research were identified. Firstly, there is a need to explore further the nature of the dyadic relationship that exists between PCCs and the Chief Constables. Secondly, the opportunities existing for PCCs to become total commissioners of all police services and crime and
disorder related activity needs further investigation. Thirdly, since the perceptions of public engagement in the study were very much that of the PCCs; opportunities exist to explore the public's experience of the PCC role. This could not only scope in issues such as inclusion, involvement and perceived accountability of the police but also could include whether the role has been able to re-establish trust between the public and police. Finally, the issue of accountability in public office and whether this is achieved by four-year election cycles or other governance methods requires critical investigation.

David Cliff - Final Thesis 2017.pdf - Accepted Version

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Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 9899

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Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2018 08:36
Last Modified: 20 Jan 2023 06:48


Author: David Cliff

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