Why I should be running Leicestershire police... two candidates set out their stalls
Voters go to the polls in November to choose our first elected police and crime commissioner (PCC). The winner will control the force budget and scrutinise officers’ performance. Crime correspondent Ciaran Fagan asks Conservative candidate, former Air Chief Marshall Sir Clive Loader, and Labour’s candidate, city councillor Sarah Russell, to set out their stalls.
How did you feel when you won your party's nomination?
Sir Clive Loader: Delight that those who voted me in had placed such confidence in me and concern that I had never run an election campaign before – coupled with the knowledge of the importance of trying to enthuse and inform the electorate.
Sarah Russell: Surprised, excited, honoured, nervous.
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How influential do you believe you could be?
SCL: Extremely influential. The population will have for the first time an individual who has been elected solely to represent their views and act on their behalf in policing matters.
If the PCC does not deliver, he or she will be ejected at the next turn of the election handle.
SR: In such a difficult financial climate I would use any influence to get increased collaboration from the public, private and voluntary sectors to ensure we pull together to protect communities, individuals and businesses – whether that be in reducing shoplifting and burglary or tackling domestic violence.
How can we be sure you won't be making decisions based on party affiliation?
SCL: You can be sure because I have said that I will not do so – and my word is my pledge.
I am extremely clear that the PCC is accountable to the people of Leicestershire and Rutland, not to Conservative head office.
SR: It is vital for public confidence that the police are not politicised.
My political affiliation is more about the values I use to inform decisions I make than about a party line.
One chief constable has said crime could rise as officer numbers fall. Crime in Leicestershire is falling despite a drop in officer and staff numbers – what are your thoughts?
SCL: The fact that crime shows a fall does great credit to the chief constable and his people and it proves that with the right leadership and focus it is possible to achieve success against diminishing funding.
But there have to be further cuts in public expenditure and we will have to deal with those.
That means listening carefully to what the public want and then equally carefully focusing available assets.
SR: The work done by the chief constable and his team, alongside the police authority, to maintain frontline and neighbourhood policing is behind the numbers continuing to fall, but this protection can only go so far.
The depth of cuts threatens this and goes alongside other social factors such as rising unemployment which can also have an impact on crime figures.
Does the PCC role give you any significant say on officer and staff levels?
SCL: Beyond insisting we continue to perform, indeed improve, within the available budget, I do not expect to need to have a significant say on officer and staff levels. The chief constable is the expert.
SR: The chief constable must have the autonomy to make operational decisions. I will work with him on a strategy that protects neighbourhood policing and ensures all staff are accountable to the public.
Do you have a plan to raise public participation in the election?
SCL: We need to inform and enthuse the populace so they will exercise their democratic right, come rain or snow.
I want to use all possible means to do that – and the Leicester Mercury is a very important part of that.
I also plan to do a great deal of listening to all parts of the constituency. Perhaps by so doing, we can get people talking.
SR: As candidates, we have a huge responsibility to help people find out more about the role and why it is so important to use their votes.
I'm delighted organisations have already started organising hustings and I will attend as many as possible. I am also making use of social media.
How do you intend to keep the public informed of decisions?
SCL: Beyond the fact the PCC will be fully answerable to a Police and Crime Panel, I would expect to continue to explain exactly what we are doing via mechanisms from conventional media to social media and town hall meetings, alongside the chief constable.
SR: I intend to be fully transparent and will ensure there are regular opportunities for questions and challenge by both the public and the media.
All decisions will be formally recorded and published and I will consult as broadly as possible on key decisions.
Have you spoken to police officers to get a flavour of how they feel?
SCL: I have spent time with officers in road policing, firearms, the custody centre, the emergency call-out centre, CID and neighbourhood policing and accompanied officers patrolling Leicester city's night-time economy until 3am.
Of course they have views regarding the PCCs, most notably a gentle concern that an outsider might meddle in their business.
They need have no fear about me in that regard.
SR: I am lucky to have the opportunity to speak to officers on a daily basis and have a broad understanding of the challenges they are facing and work with them in my current role to ensure we make the best use of scarce resources.
One of you lives in the city and the other in the county. Do you believe you have a grasp of the issues facing people in the other area?
SCL: I do not accept that this background somehow does not allow me to understand the problems faced by those who live in town or city centres.
Whoever is elected will be the PCC for all people, not just for those who voted for them.
SR: Having friends and family living throughout Leicestershire and Rutland, as well as working with those of all political persuasions who have responsibility for community safety, has given me an understanding of the challenges faced by people across the force area and also of some of the shared worries.
What was your reaction when you first saw the new police uniform?
SCL: It looks both operational and comfortable.
Equally importantly, it is already in neighbouring forces, so there will be economies of scale.
SR: It looks comfortable and practical.
How about the gradual change of name from Leicestershire Constabulary to Leicestershire Police?
SCL: If it helps people to identify with the roles and responsibilities of the police, I am comfortable with it.
SR: I had not really noticed but I think that it makes sense.
Why are we having elected police and crime commissioners?
People in England and Wales will be asked to choose police and crime commissioners (PCCs) for their police forces for the first time on November 15.
The PCCs will replace police authorities, which have set budgets, appointed senior officers and scrutinised performance.
The Home Office believes commissioners will be more accountable to the public because they are elected, whereas police authority members include appointed councillors, magistrates and independents. Commissioners’ roles will include:
Ensuring local and national priorities are suitably funded by setting a budget and tax payer contribution.
Consulting with the public to set policing priorities.
Cutting crime and delivering an effective and efficient police service.
Holding chief constables to account for performance, although they will not be able to interfere in operational matters.
Elections will take place every four years.
• Also running is Leicester community worker and businessman Suleman Nagdi who is standing as an independent. Read the related article: Candidate for police job issues manifesto