Suffolk: Concerns over ‘political’ police role

TWO former Suffolk police chiefs last night strongly criticised the new post of Police and Crime Commissioner – with one calling for voters to spoil their ballot papers in next week’s election.

Ex-Chief Constable Tony Coe and former Police Authority chairman Martin Smith both have grave misgivings about the new role. Mr Coe called the situation “an improper mess” and Mr Smith asked for voters to write “No to PCC” on their voting slips on November 15.

Suffolk’s PCC candidates are Conservative hopeful Tim Passmore, Labour’s Jane Basham, Bill Mountford of UKIP and independent David Cocks.

Mr Coe, who ran Suffolk Constabulary from 1989 to 1998, said the new post could put pressures on the Chief Constable, who would be well aware of the “possible fragility of his position” given the PCC’s power to hire and fire.

He said: “Fears already exist concerning political interference with three of the candidates being supported by political parties. This should not be how policing is managed.”

He added: “I feel it is sad that we are to be given a system that government has imposed without much public debate and one which will destroy an existing working model that has evolved to provide a balance of powers between the Home Secretary, the Chief Constable and the Police Committee.”

Meanwhile, Mr Smith, who was chairman of Suffolk’s Police Authority between 1995 and 2000, said that as people begin to realise what is proposed with PCCs, they do not trust the system.

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He said: “For any single person, whether or not supported by a political party, to have such wide-ranging powers and to necessarily shape his or her actions with possible re-election always a factor – cannot be right.

“I urge people not to walk away from the ballot but to go to the polling station and spoil the ballot paper.

“This will show a rejection of the dangerous new system and, crucially, will not on this occasion allow the government of the day to think it can proceed as it wishes because most people do not care enough to do anything about it.”

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair previously encouraged people not to vote for PCCs.

Sir Ian said the posts as designed were “very strange” because the police areas were too big for any individual to properly represent.

He said: “I’ve never said this before but I actually hope people don’t vote because that is the only way we are going to stop this.

“I’ve always been someone who says vote.”

Last night Ipswich Ben Gummer said the comments from Mr Coe and Mr Smith were “disgraceful” and urged people to use their vote.

“Parliament has made a decision, the will of the people has been expressed.

“These people who have had the privilege of running the police without having an election would do well not to try to frustrate the will of the people.”

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