Police service governance

We explore the tripartite arrangement on which the governance of the police service in England and Wales is based. We also look beyond the bodies that are party to the tripartite arrangement to a number of other important organisations that impact on HR in the police service.

Police service governance - the tripartite arrangement

The tripartite arrangement is shared between the Home Office, Chief Police Officers (coordinated nationally by the National Police Chiefs' Council, which replaced the Association of Chief Police Officers in April 2015) and Police and Crime Commissioners (represented nationally by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners).

The tripartite arrangement is aimed at protecting the independence of the police service from political interference while retaining accountability for law and order. The balance between independence and accountability is maintained because none of the parties to the agreement has absolute control and chief constables have operational independence even though they are accountable to their particular police and crime commissioner and the Home Office.

Tripartite arrangements operate locally and nationally and, as outlined below, the parties all have an input into negotiations and consultations on pay, reward and related HR matters. The arrangements generally work well and the arrangement is often cited as being critical to the UK's unique style of policing as it maintains the balance between political direction and operational reality.

Home Office

The Home Office is the central government department with responsibility for the police service. It plays the main role in deciding overall strategy and priorities. It is responsible for introducing crime and disorder legislation and provides the bulk of the funding for forces through direct grants.

Chief Police Officers

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) was established in April 2015 to replace the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). The NPCC coordinates the work of all the chief constables of the 43 forces in England and Wales at national level. It has command of counter-terrorism operations and the response to national emergencies, including the mobilisation of police resources. It also has responsibility for national operational implementation of standards and policy set by the College of Policing and the Home Office.

Locally, the chief constable, deputy and assistant chief constables, and assistant chief officers may still be referred to as the ACPO team or the command team.

The Metropolitan Police Service has a different command structure.

Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) provides support to police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and consults with them on national issues. The role of PCC was created by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. There is no PCC for the Metropolitan Police or Greater Manchester Police for which the relevant Mayor has similar responsibilities as the PCCs. There is also provision for mayors of combined authorities to assume responsibility for the governance of policing.

PCCs are elected for a four-year term and may hold office for two terms only. Their core functions are to secure the maintenance of an efficient and effective police force and to hold the chief constable to account for the exercise of their functions. PCCs have the power to appoint and suspend the chief constable or call on them to resign or retire (with an obligation on them to comply). PCCs are required to produce a police and crime plan within 12 months of their appointment, agree the force budget and the precept (ie the element of council tax that relates to policing).

From 3 April 2017, provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 place a duty on police, fire and rescue, and ambulance services in England to collaborate where this is in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness. The Act also enables PCCs to assume responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made for this and it appears to the Secretary of State that this is in the interests of economy, efficiency and effectiveness, or public safety.

Police and crime panels have been established in each force area to advise and scrutinise the work of the PCC. The panels comprise at least one elected representative from local councils in the force area as well as co-opted independent members. The panels have an important role in overseeing the work of the PCC and ensuring that local people have a voice in policing.

Working relationships will vary from force to force. Police staff who were previously employees of a police authority were transferred to the PCC but the majority were then subject to a second transfer to the chief constable (who became a corporation sole) on 1 April 2014, following negotiations between the PCC and the chief constable.

In addition to the bodies that are party to the tripartite arrangement there are a number of other important organisations that impact on HR in the police service. These are set out below.

College of Policing

The College of Policing was established following the abolition of the National Policing Improvement Agency at the end of 2012. It is the police professional body with responsibility for developing professional skills and leadership in the police service. In November 2014, the College published its five-year strategy setting out its plans and priorities.

The college's primary functions are to: set standards of professional practice; accredit training providers and set learning and development outcomes; identify, develop and promote good practice based on evidence; support police forces and other organisations to work together to protect the public and prevent crime; and to develop and promote ethics, values and standards of integrity. The college was established under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which provides the legal basis for the college to set standards of police procedure through codes of practice to which chief officers must have regard.

The college has developed a Code of Ethics for policing, which was adopted by Parliament in July 2014, and applies to all police forces in England and Wales.

National Crime Agency

The National Crime Agency commenced operations on 7 October 2013 and leads the fight against organised crime, protects borders and provides services best delivered at national level. It replaced the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and carries out some activities previously coordinated by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Policing Improvement Agency.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) provides independent inspection of forces to ensure that they meet the required standards of operation and perform well. It publishes public reports on key issues and makes recommendations to forces, police and crime commissioners and the Home Office for changes that will improve the efficiency and quality of the service.

Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) oversees the police complaints system and investigates serious matters such as those relating to death or serious injury following police contact, and corruption. The IOPC replaced the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) on 8 January 2018, under provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The IOPC has different governance arrangements from the IPCC and is headed by a Director General. The Act is due to confer on the IOPC new powers to simplify and strengthen the police complaints system, including the power to undertake investigations without relying on a force to record and refer cases.

CIPD police forum

Heads of HR from police forces meet regularly as the CIPD police HR forum to discuss HR policy and practice within the service. The meetings provide a valuable opportunity to network with colleagues in other forces, share knowledge and best practice. The forum also organises a national HR conference each year, which normally attracts leading HR practitioners within the service and keynote external speakers.