In November, people across England and Wales will be able to vote for the police and crime commissioner (PCC) in their area for the first time. It’s a new post that will oversee police activities as well as making sure the police service’s priorities reflect the issues of the people they serve. You can learn more about the PCC role here.
The election of PCCs is a positive step that will make police forces more accountable to the public. PCCs will be expected to regularly engage with citizens, thus giving local residents a genuine say in shaping the priorities and budgetary decisions of their area’s police service.
The government has made a good start in publicising the forthcoming elections through a number of online initiatives, including Choose My PCC which is designed to explain the new role and provide information on local candidates.
BBC News has also covered how social media was being used in the PCC elections. Specifically, the #myPCC hashtag is being promoted in order to encourage debate on Twitter.
The online activity regarding PCCs should not be limited to election coverage. As a significant part of a PCC’s role is dedicated to public engagement, online engagement software can be used in order to achieve this.
Several police authorities have already used online tools in order to consult with local residents on policing issues. For example, many have consulted on forthcoming budgets online using our Budget Simulator tool including Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire police authorities.
Budget Simulator allows citizens to use policy ‘sliders’ to be customised to reflect areas relevant to Police Authorities such as local policing, criminal justice and roads policing. It is also possible to outline what proportion of the current budget is spent on each area and provide more detailed explanations of issues in order to inform participants and increase the quality of the responses.
Our police service clients have also sought to maximise participation with their Budget Simulators in innovative ways. Southend-on-Sea Borough Council implemented QR codes on bus stops to direct users to the Budget Simulatorand Greater Manchester Police Authority offered a prize draw for participants and promoted it with fifty 5ft-tall cardboard using cutouts of their Budget Simulator character.
However, a PCC’s role spans more than just consulting on policing budgets and therefore it may be beneficial to engage with the public on broader issues. Avon and Somerset Police Authority ‘s use of the Citizen Space consultation hub is a great example of how to achieve this.
In the past year, they used Citizen Space to run consultations regarding forthcoming budgets and areas of priority for the force, issues which PCCs will need to consult the public on.
Citizen Space can also be used to publicise engagement activities held offline, such as PACT meetings, and all consultations can be easily publicised on existing websites through RSS feed.
If you have any more ideas or thoughts on the topic feel free to get in touch and leave a comment.