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Elected police commissioners are 'not going to be good for democracy'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 05, 2012

Shadow Policing Minister David Hanson, pictured during a visit to a police control room, fears there will be a low turnout in the police commissioner elections

Shadow Policing Minister David Hanson, pictured during a visit to a police control room, fears there will be a low turnout in the police commissioner elections

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Devon and Cornwall's first elected police commissioner could secure the post with as little as 8% of the vote, Labour has warned.

The party's Shadow Policing Minister, David Hanson, has urged the Government to ramp-up its "invisible" publicity campaign on the polls to pick 41 new police chiefs next month.

It is "not going to be good for democracy" if any of the policing figureheads, designed to improve accountability, secure less than 10% of the vote in their region, the MP said.

Speaking to journalists at the Labour conference in Manchester, Mr Hanson renewed his party's unease at the post, but added: "We are in the business now of trying to make this work and drive through our values."

The police authority, which oversees policing, is being scrapped to make way for the US-style commissioner, plus a panel to act as a watchdog. Chief constables will still be in charge of operational policing. In Devon and Cornwall, the post commands an £85,000-a-year salary.

Mr Hanson said: "We have had some concerns about the whole model of police and crime commissioners because one person covering an area like Devon and Cornwall is quite a significant role in terms of interface between the police and the elected person. The police authority in the past would have had people from all parts of that area."

With the elections on November 15, Mr Hanson said: "We want to see people turn out and vote.

"This election period, invisible though it is despite it being a government flagship policy, we are committed to try and raise turnout and make it work.

"Whatever the turnout somebody's going to win this post of police and crime commissioner.

"The person who wins has the authority of that post. But I think the higher the turnout, the more people participate, the more issues that are raised, the stronger that mandate will be.

"We could have potentially a 15% to 20% turnout. We could have somebody potentially winning on 8% or 9% of the vote. That's not going to be good for democracy. These are important elections."

In Devon and Cornwall, Plymouth councillor Nicky Williams will stand for Labour and former Culdrose naval base commander Tony Hogg has secured the Conservative Party nomination.

Former Detective Chief Inspector Brian Blake is running for the Lib Dems, and Brian Greenslade, the Lib Dem leader of North Devon Council, is among a number of independents likely to feature on the ballot paper.

Last week, an open letter to Home Secretary Theresa May signed by Labour, independents and former Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate Brian Paddick warned of the "lowest turnout in British history".

They want the Electoral Commission to write to every household telling them about the elections and the Government to make sure that broadcasts promoting the elections take place.

"It's a flagship government policy – they have a responsibility for the turnout," Mr Hanson said.

And he did not rule out Labour scrapping the role in future. Mr Hanson said: "This post may work, it may not work."

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  • Stork  |  October 08 2012, 12:10PM

    Once the politician, sorry Police Commissioner, is appointed. That will probably be the last time you hear anything about that post. All Police Commissioners will toe their Party's Line which means one 'phone call from the Party HQ to make the Police Commissioner do this or that, rather than making loads of telephone calls to members of the Police Authority who might put up a fight. More control, requiring less effort, if you're a political Party !

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  • Chunder123  |  October 07 2012, 9:31PM

    I advise you to take my words seriously. Police have stated they have no way to protect the public in the event of a mass riot and are seriously short staffed. It will be down to yourself to protect yourselves. Heed my warning. If 1 million people form a riot in uk i would advise devising a escape route. Ignore these people who keep clicking the red comment marks every time somebody says something intelligent on here.

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  • Mustafachat  |  October 07 2012, 5:26PM

    I saw an old man with a trilby lounging abut near a phone box with what looked like a hand held speed camera, perhaps he could do the job

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  • Chunder123  |  October 06 2012, 11:51PM

    I just hope they can maintain control over the population. THE london riots were a worrying proof that law and order can no longer be maintained. GOd forbid if they get even more numbers. Things should remain ok but i would advise people devise a backup plan just in case things go bad. The government could issue a state of emergency

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  • sweeney2010  |  October 05 2012, 10:17PM

    I think the only valid reason to vote in these elections would be if there was a "do not support the concept" option.

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  • czarchasm  |  October 05 2012, 10:47AM

    There was nothing wrong with the old system. Although not directly democratic, a lot of police authority members are themselves elected councillors. The new system ignores the benefits inherent in the stability of the committee system. It is also vastly more bureaucratic and very much more expensive - at a time when belts everywhere else, including front line policing - are being tightened. Each new police commissioner will receive £84,000pa, plus he or she will have a staff .... and expenses .... and so the grave train goes on. This is change for the sake of change, and is a retrograde step and an additional expense. We don't need it.

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