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Tory hopefuls battle for Devon and Cornwall police boss role

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: July 06, 2012

Tory hopefuls Paul Biddle, Alison Hernandez and Tony Hogg

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The race to become Devon and Cornwall's first elected police commissioner took a major step forward last night as three potential candidates shared a public stage to outline their vision for the crucial job.

Torbay Council's Alison Hernandez, former soldier Paul Biddle, and former RNAS Culdrose boss Tony Hogg went head-to-head in a debate at the Conservative Party's first open "primary".

About 200 people were at the Westpoint Arena, near Exeter, to quiz the trio over how they would lead the force, which has seen a rise in crime while having to axe hundreds of officers to meet cuts of £51 million by 2015.

One of the key questions posed last night was the action each would take, given this week's report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary that Devon and Cornwall Police was at risk of not providing a "sufficiently efficient or effective service".

Mr Hogg, who said he was exploring whether he could serve as a special constable as well as a commissioner, said: "The first action is to try to reassure people that I am a safe pair of hands in this job.

"We must reassure the population of Devon and Cornwall that we can, with the number of police officers we have out there, deliver visible policing, that we can strengthen neighbourhood policing, and there are many ways I think we can go about that."

He described Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer's response to the HMIC report as "negative", adding: "I am sure we can do more with the numbers than the current chief constable thinks we can."

Candidate Mr Biddle said there needed to be reform, not just of policing but the wider criminal justice system, to enable officers to spend more time in communities rather than in stations or court.

He said: "I think we have a problem, an issue that criminals do not fear the justice system, they do not fear the police and that needs to change."

He said he wanted to see the Special Constabulary increased to 2,000 across the force, and a chief constable from the area rather than being "brought down from the Met all the time".

Asked about preventing crime, Mr Biddle said it was something the force "did less". He added: "We have a very reactive police force. Very often, the only time you will see them is when you dial 999. As far as budgets are concerned, this is a tough time, there are going to be tough challenges and very quickly I would need to assess with the chief constable where those cuts can be made."

Councillor Hernandez said it was "a concern" that Devon and Cornwall Police had been named by HMIC as one of three nationally that was at risk of failing the public.

"It is at risk at the moment because there is no strategy to deliver for 2015," she said.

"It is giving some direction to the police about how we are going to deliver policing in a different way to meet the resources we have."

Councillor Hernandez said stronger partnerships needed to be forged within the criminal justice system to prevent the scale of re-offending, as well as with communities.

She said there had been "instability at senior management level" which had impacted on the force's ability to deliver.

Police commissioners have been introduced by the Government in a bid to improve local accountability in policing. They will replace the current police authority following the election in November.

The post carries a salary of £85,000, although it can be a part-time po sition. Commissioners will be in charge of the police budget and will also have the power to hire and fire the chief constable, who will continue to run operational policing. However, the policy has not been without its critics, with many concerned that it will lead to the politicisation of the police service.

Last night, each candidate was interviewed individually before questions from the floor were posed. A ballot, which is open to everyone, regardless of party membership, was then taken with voters being asked to rank the candidates.

It was the first open primary election of three being staged by the Tories. Tonight the debate moves to Fraddon, in Mid Cornwall, before heading to Plymouth tomorrow, when the result will be declared.

Plymouth councillor Nicky Williams had been selected by Labour to contest the election. The Liberal Democrats have indicated they will stand a candidate in Devon and Cornwall, although they have not named anyone in the frame.

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  • Chunder123  |  July 09 2012, 2:39AM

    legalize weed and it will bring peace to the pigs in britain

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  • Chunder123  |  July 09 2012, 2:38AM

    People like them took this country and turned it into a jail

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  • Richard_Heed  |  July 08 2012, 9:42PM

    Have any of these people 'bad mouthing' our Police been abroad. We have one of the friendliest Police forces in the world (too friendly sometimes, they can get taken advantage of). Now if hernandez gets the job we will also have one of the sexiest Police forces as well, that's got to be good.

  • Karen362  |  July 08 2012, 9:03PM

    The truth is that the police are reforming themselves, albeit belatedly. That's why it's been sanctioned for a few bureaucrats to be seen to be leading the way at a district level. They invariably do what the police tell them to at the end of the day. If only the police had just got on with the job in hand, rather than resorting to ironic, deconstructive discourses and news events all these wasted years... It's decades of centre-right diversionary politics that have held up vital police reforms. You get what you vote for!

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  • Chunder123  |  July 08 2012, 8:36PM

    See that some harm comes to torbay council

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  • andy063  |  July 08 2012, 7:48PM

    Just what we need a bunch of polititions medling in a profession they don't understand, lets face it they've not b*****ed up education or anything have they. Leave the police force to be run by policemen and women with a long period of service and experience. People should show their contempt for these inovations by not voting when it comes to it or spoiling their papers and thereby giving nobody a mandate. Problem is if they don't get elected to this job they try getting elected to the House of Lords, when DC gets his way, and a group of people who have done something get replaced by another bunch of elected nobodies who just follow the party line.

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  • Karen362  |  July 07 2012, 7:19PM

    No Singh, it just means they can afford to travel to remote locations like Westpoint to attend local pr events.

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  • Sinjis_Things  |  July 07 2012, 6:56PM

    As this is a job which (over)pays £85,000 per year, does it mean that the winning candidate will give up all other work so that he/she can give their all to the job and thus give us value for money?

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  • sweeney2010  |  July 07 2012, 4:36PM

    Ellie and Richard , suggest you read http://tinyurl.com/cywmhrf Theresa May seems rattled at the lack of decent candidates too. Look who have pulled out. If enough ask for 'a none of the above' option maybe, just maybe we will see another U turn. There is also a very interesting article about the declining trust of the system at http://tinyurl.com/7dx2tbx Accepting the system just because it is there perpetuates it whereas minimal turn outs, or 'no' options in some future ballots, just might bring about change. Playing their game will not. I hear there were 200 at the primary out of a potential ? Rather displays the level of support for the proposed change I'd say. I imagine many of the 200 were candidates friends bussed in from various parts too. I asked one candidate for a opinion on a certain matter, only response is to follow me on twitter!!

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  • elliecat606  |  July 06 2012, 6:21PM

    I don't really understand your comment. Anyone who is registered to vote in Devon, Cornwall or Isles of Scilly could register to vote at these primaries. You did not need to be a conservative. Westpoint is near Exeter, then there is one in Cornwall tonight and one in Plymouth tomorrow. So there should be one near most people!

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