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Interaction with Candidates 

Protocol for the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections 2021: Interaction with Candidates 

 

1: Purpose of protocol

  • On Thursday 6 May 2021 elections will be taking place for Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) roles in England and Wales and the pre-election period begins on the publication of the notice of election (no later than 31 March 2021).
  • This protocol is intended to provide guidance to staff from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and Hampshire Constabulary concerning their conduct and their contact with candidates during the election campaigns.
  • The protocol will be shared with all candidates and, in-line with the Seven Principles of Public Life, the senior police officer responsible for supporting the election process will seek candidates’ agreement to respect its provisions to prevent members of the OPCC and Hampshire Constabulary being placed in difficult situations.
  • Throughout this guidance reference is made to candidates; this should be taken to include prospective candidates, including the incumbent PCC in the capacity of a candidate should they intend to stand for re-election.

2: Impartiality

2.1   All OPCC and Hampshire Constabulary personnel should ensure that they are aware of the need for impartiality and that any interaction, no matter how small, could be used to show support for or opposition to a candidate, party, or position.

 Specific Guidance for OPCC

  • All OPCC staff (but not the PCC) are contractually and legally[1] politically restricted. This means that staff are disqualified from standing for or holding elected office, must not canvass on behalf of a political party or a person who is or seeks to be a candidate, must not speak in public or publish any work that could give the impression of advocating support for a political party, must not act as an election agent or sub agent for a candidate for election, and must not be an officer of a political party or member of a committee which requires participation in the general management of the party or one of its branches, or act on its behalf in relation to others.
  • Care should be taken to avoid commenting on the merits of policies or statements of candidates or making statements capable of interpretation as supportive of candidates.

Specific guidance for Police Officers

  • Police Officers and Special Constables are restricted by law from displaying political bias. Schedule 1 of The Police Regulations 2003 states that members of the police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of their duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere; and in particular a members of the police force shall not take any active part in politics. In addition, the Standards of Professional Behaviour contained in the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 highlight the standards and behaviours expected of police officers. The most relevant behaviours relevant to election matters being honesty, integrity, fairness, impartiality, politeness and tolerance, in order to maintain the confidence of all communities.
  • Police Officers should not attempt to persuade or dissuade a person from voting in the PCC Election. Failure to comply may result in a fine. It is the role of the Electoral Commission to take steps to raise public awareness of the election.
  • Police Officers may be asked to sign candidate’s nomination papers. Our advice is that, whilst it is not illegal for officers to do so, the impartiality of that officer and indirectly the Constabulary could be questioned.  Therefore officers are advised not to sign any such nomination papers.
  • Care should be taken to avoid commenting on the merits of policies or statements of candidates or making statements capable of interpretation as supportive of candidates. Officers are also reminded of the Code of Ethics framework which sets out the principles and standards of behaviour expected of Hampshire Constabulary officers and staff.

Specific guidance for Police Staff (including PCSOs)

  • The majority of police staff are not subject to any restrictions in law regarding participation in politics. However, police staff are still expected to uphold their own similar standards of professional Public confidence in the police depends on police staff demonstrating the highest standards of behaviour.
  • Police staff are reminded that any act which could bring the impartiality of the Police into question will undermine public confidence in Hampshire Constabulary.
  • Any PCSO that could be directed to patrol a polling station must not have taken an active part in campaigning in the run up to the election, certainly not in that area. This is to ensure that the impartiality of the Constabulary is maintained.
  • Care should be taken to avoid commenting on the merits of policies or statements of candidates or making statements capable of interpretation as supportive of candidates.
  • Staff are also reminded of the Code of Ethics framework which sets out the principles and standards of behaviour expected of Hampshire Constabulary officers and staff.

3: Requests for information from candidates

3.1   During their campaigns candidates may directly approach the OPCC or Hampshire Constabulary with requests for meetings, or information and request media opportunities.

3.2   Candidates must be treated equally – information shared with one candidate should be provided to other candidates. For this reason, a shared process between the OPCC and Hampshire Constabulary has been established, providing a single point of contact (SPOC) for all requests for information from candidates.

3.3    Examples of requests from candidates that should be referred to the SPOC include:

  • Requests for information about or held by Hampshire Constabulary, such as the number of police officers employed or the number of burglaries last year.
  • Requests for budget information.
  • Requests for suspected media/publicity opportunities – whilst there is nothing improper about candidates wishing to be filmed, recorded or photographed with a police officer, in police buildings etc, the subsequent use of that recording could bring the impartiality of the Constabulary or Office into question. Therefore all such requests should be considered by the SPOC.
  • Requests to visit police premises – these must be for fact-finding rather than to generate publicity and so should be considered by the SPOC.
  • Requests for regular meetings with a candidate.
  • Any other request from a candidate not already covered.

3.4    The following chart details the process to follow for requests for  information from candidates:

 

3.5    The SPOC can be contacted on:

Ranjeev Pathak, Senior Performance Officer, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Email: opcc@hampshire.pnn.police.uk
Telephone: 01962 871595

3.6    It is important to note that even once candidates are officially declared  in April 2021, they are still not afforded any enhanced status and have no rights to restricted or confidential information. All candidates should be treated as members of the public.

3.7    The incumbent PCC should not be treated favourably to any other PCC candidate, should they intend to stand for re-election.

3.8   In order to ensure transparency all requests for information from candidates, together with any responses, will be published on the OPCC website.

Process:

  1. Request for information received from a candidate by a member of staff
  2. Request for information sent to SPOC. Label enquiry as “PCC Election Candidate Request”
  3. SPOC assesses whether information can be provided (if information needed from Hampshire Constabulary, the data will be requested through Jason Kenny and Stuart Ratcliffe)
    1. Information can be provided: Information sent to candidate
    2. Information cannot be provided: Candidate informed that information cannot be shared, and reasons for this
  4. Request recorded on correspondence log, including response if given
  5. OPCC website updated with most recent entry on correspondence log.

 

4: Candidate briefing

4.1   The OPCC and Hampshire Constabulary will prepare a briefing pack for PCC candidates, detailing information about the police and crime landscape, key roles and partnerships, budget information, structures and much more.

4.2   Following the publication of a briefing pack, the OPCC and Hampshire Constabulary will hold familiarisation events with candidates giving them the opportunity to ask questions of the Chief Constable and Chief Executive. In order to ensure every candidate has access to the same information these familiarisation events will be filmed. The events are to be held in January 2021.

4.3    The briefing pack and video of the familiarisation event will be published on the OPCC website to ensure transparency.

 

5: Communication with the media

5.1    Should factually incorrect information about Hampshire Constabulary  or the OPCC be released to the media which could impact on  confidence in the PCC and Constabulary, it is appropriate for the OPCC Chief Executive to correct this publicly in a neutral manner.

 

 6: Management of this protocol

6.1    The implementation of this protocol will be monitored by the OPCC  Managing the Election Project Board, a monthly joint meeting between the OPCC and Hampshire Constabulary staff which ensures regular communication between the two organisations about the forthcoming elections.

 

7: Key contacts

7.1    If you have questions about this protocol please contact:

Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Anja Kimberley, Head of Performance and Information
anja.kimberley@hampshire.pnn.police.uk

 

Hampshire Constabulary
Superintendent Kenny Jason.Kenny@hampshire.pnn.police.uk

 

7.2    If you have received a request for information from an election candidate, please forward to the Single Point of Contact, marked up as  “PCC Election Candidate Request”:

Ranjeev Pathak, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Email: opcc@hampshire.pnn.police.uk
Telephone: 01962 871595

 

8: Further Information

 

[1] Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 Schedule 16 part 3

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