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Former chairman bids to become police and crime commissioner

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 01, 2012

Former Devon county councillor John Smith will be standing as an independent

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Another former chairman of Devon and Cornwall Police Authority has announced he will stand to become the region's first ever police and crime commissioner.

Former Liberal Democrat and Devon county councillor John Smith, from Teignmouth, has confirmed his candidacy for this November's elections.

And like Brian Greenslade, a serving Lib-Dem county councillor and former chairman of the authority who is also contesting the election, Mr Smith said he would be standing as an independent.

Mr Smith said he resigned from the Lib-Dems two years ago "angry at the way in which Liberal Democrat MPs tore up their signed promises over tuition fees and the education maintenance allowance".

He said he would be standing "truly independent of all politics" and therefore could not "be influenced by owing allegiance to any party".

"Politics is about power and every government has always wanted more power and more control," he added. "Politicians sometimes develop a blinkered approach, they believe that it is only through the work of politics, that things are achieved.

"It can be easily forgotten that British policing belongs to the community and works to promote community well being.

"Perhaps the real agenda behind the decision to have individual police and crime commissioners elected is the wish on the part of the ruling government to have more people elected who think like them – who will operate to the party line and give implicit support to central government."

Mr Smith was a member of the police authority from 2001 to 2009 and served as chairman and vice chairman.

He has also been a board member of the Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Service, part of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.

Mr Smith said the "largest and most obvious problem is to find a way of keeping the level of policing as it currently is".

The force is shrinking from a high of 3,500 officers to about 2,800 by 2015 in order to meet Government imposed budget cuts of £51 million.

Mr Smith said he would "campaign to have our budgets increased" and "protect police personnel" but also look for what "further efficiencies could be achieved with more regional, inter-force cooperation and local council partnerships".

He said he would also "want to know if more could be achieved through the greater use of volunteers".

The commissioner will take over the running of the force from the current police authority which is to be abolished. The Government insists that directly elected commissioners will make policing more accountable.

However, critics have warned that the policy risks "politicising the police service" while a low turn out at the polls could see an extremist candidate elected.

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