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How the Liberal Democrats select a PCC candidate

February 22, 2016 4:26 PM

Candidate Exam In Progress

One of the criticisms sometimes touted in the press about Police & Crime Commissioner candidates is that since they come from lines of work unrelated to police activity, they may not be properly equipped to take on the role. Helen Korfanty, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Suffolk is, of course, very well acquainted with the police and their work through her role as a duty solicitor in police investigation centres and magistrates' courts, and through her professional specialisms in criminal law and family law (see http://suffolkcoastal-libdems.org.uk/p9vB for more information about Helen's background). So that criticism cannot be levied against her.

But the question actually goes deeper. The Police & Crime Commissioner controls a very large budget indeed, and it would be foolish to entrust that budget to someone with no suitable background. What can we do to make sure that the Police & Crime Commissioner has a full understanding of the responsibilities and legal rights of the position, knowing what the post-holder can influence and what they can't?

In the Liberal Democrats, we take this seriously in our selection process. When a potential candidate applies, we send them a comprehensive list of reading materials covering all aspects of the role. When they have absorbed that, they sit a written examination to allow our Regional Candidates Chair to ascertain whether they have reached a level of understanding such that they can be considered as a candidate.

The written examination consists of four long questions and ten short ones. All of the questions test the potential candidate's knowledge of relevant facts, but the long questions are also designed to draw out how they would tackle the PCC's job in the sphere of a specific scenario.

The assessment is not subjective, but applies specific marking criteria already laid down in detail to assess competencies agreed by Liberal Democrat assessors relating to their policies. As well as testing factual understanding, answers are appraised for their demonstration of communication skills, leadership, resilience, the ability to represent people, thinking and judgment, as well as values and actions.

If a potential candidate performs well enough in the exam, then they go through to the shortlisting selection committee for interview. At that point, other personal capabilities and qualities are considered alongside the potential candidate's core competence for the job, such as how the candidate relates to people and whether they can command respect.

This internal assessment process is obligatory for any would-be Liberal Democrat candidate, and the East of England Regional Candidates Chair has assessed each of the candidates standing in the East of England counties on this basis.

This means that we can be sure that the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Police & Crime Commissioner post in Suffolk has done her homework! Helen Korfanty not only has excellent professional experience working with the police and the public, but also has invested considerable effort into ensuring that she has a very good understanding of the technical and legal details surrounding the post. She is ideally placed to work on our behalf in this role.