The PCC is not responsible for the operational decisions of South Yorkshire Police - Dr Alan Billings

In a recent newsletter, one of our local MPs wrote that there were going to be more police officers in South Yorkshire and he wanted to see more of them in his constituency. That is a fair comment, though I am sure all 14 of our MPs in the county would want the same.

However, he then went on to say this: “It is the job of the Labour Police and Crime Commissioner to decide where officers are deployed.”

This is not true and it’s also misleading.

Decisions about where officers are to be deployed are not matters for me, but for the Chief Constable. It is her job to run the force, not mine. The Chief Constable has total operational independence.

'Decisions about where officers are to be deployed are not matters for me, but for the Chief Constable'.'Decisions about where officers are to be deployed are not matters for me, but for the Chief Constable'.
'Decisions about where officers are to be deployed are not matters for me, but for the Chief Constable'.
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In fact, I made a solemn declaration when I took on the role of Police and Crime Commissioner that makes this absolutely clear: “I will not interfere with the operational independence of police officers.”

I couldn’t do my job – holding the Chief Constable to account – if I were doing her job for her. If I did make operational decisions about where police officers should be deployed, I would have to hold myself to account for those decisions – which would be absurd.

The point is that I don’t have the professional expertise to make operational decisions; I am not a police officer. And police officers would wonder who was in charge if I were to start giving operational orders. So the question of where officers are deployed is a matter for the Chief Constable. The Commissioner has no part in that. I do not decide where officers are to be sent.

That misunderstanding was bad enough, but what the MP then went on to suggest was that in deciding where police officers should be deployed, my focus would be on: “Labour-run areas of Sheffield and Doncaster, meaning that Rother Valley will be ignored again.”

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Leaving aside that word ‘again’, and the fact that Rotherham district, which includes Rother Valley, is run by a Labour-led council, while Sheffield is in no overall control, you can see here only too clearly why an elected Police and Crime Commissioner does not and should not make operational decisions for policing. They might be tempted to deploy officers, not for sound operational reasons, but to gain some sort of party political advantage – which is what the MP is suggesting. If it were true that I determined where officers were to be deployed, that would mean that policing had become politicised. Key decisions would be taken on the basis of party politics and not on the basis of what is best for the policing of particular areas. But this is what the MP is – misleadingly – suggesting.

So let me repeat and make quite clear, I am not responsible for the operational decisions of South Yorkshire Police, including which districts police should be sent to and in what numbers.

The Chief Constable, and the Chief Constable alone, will decide how many of the new officers will go to Rother Valley – or anywhere else. And she will make that decision for police operational reasons.

But there is something that I can do. Because I have the power to raise the precept (council tax), I will propose this week a (below inflation) precept increase that will enable South Yorkshire police to go beyond the number of officers being funded by government grant as part of the 20,000 national uplift.

A shortened version of the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire’s latest blog post.