West Midlands Police Commissioner candidates pitch for your votes

By Matthew Bates Wednesday 31 October 2012 Updated: 02/11 10:47

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On November 15 the people of the West Midlands will go to the polls to choose who they want to be the region’s first Police Commissioner. The new post will be responsible for setting the budget and priorities of West Midlands Police, replacing the current Police Authority. Here reporter Matthew Bates profiles the seven candidates and what their priorities would be if they were elected.

Labour: Bob Jones: Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones is Labour’s commissioner candidate. He is already involved in the running of West Midlands Police, having been a member of the Police Authority since 1986 and currently holding the role of chairman of the finance committee. The authority is being axed in favour of the commissioner role.

Among his plans are to introduce community-led policing boards set to establish policies and even commander appointments.

He wants to retain the PCSO roles which he says have proved invaluable and bring police closer to councils and other groups.

He claims the commissioner roles would give him a platform to highlight the appalling financial support the Tory-led government has given the West Midlands. The force has seen cuts three times higher per person than in areas such as Surrey.

He told us his first job would be to end the business partnership for the police privatisation process.

And he added: “I would be establishing a community led Coventry Policing and Crime board which would set the Coventry policing plan, decide how community safety funds should be spent, and let Coventry people hold Coventry police to account.”

Conservative: Matt Bennett: Matt Bennett served as a Conservative councillor in Birmingham for Stockland Green ward from 2008 to 2012. His work outside of public office has included the voluntary sector, when he worked for organisations such as Action for Children and the Legal Services Commission.

His pledges include ensuring police spend more time on the streets focusing on crime hotspots, keeping police stations open, introducing a contract with the public to set out what residents can expect from police when reporting crime, and promising to hold a public meeting every fortnight.

He told us: “I want to see tougher policing, with a crackdown on antisocial behaviour, graffiti, street drinking and other crimes that are often seen as a low priority and become tolerated.”

And on his links to the city: “I am from Birmingham but have previously worked in Coventry and know it well.

“I want policing everywhere to be more responsive to people’s needs and for local people to be able to influence priorities.

“An example of how not to do this is the current issue of the Nuneaton Sexual Assault and Rape Centre which victims in Coventry will be unable to access.

“Criminals do not work according to police force boundaries and neither should we.”

Independent: Mike Rumble: After joining the force in 1976, Mike Rumble rose the ranks serving as a beat officer, dog handler, court file preparation officer and detective.

He was forced to retire early when he was attacked during an arrest and suffered a heart attack.

Among his pledges is to put a halt to further police and support staff redundancies. He claims he has already found a way around 85 planned job losses during the next round of cuts.

Other hopes include giving community support officers the power to arrest suspects and, like many others, he hopes to scrap plans to join up with private firms in some aspects of policing. He also wants to tag all sex offenders with GPS trackers for the entire time they remain on the sex offenders’ register.

He told us: “My first job and main priority will be to stop the police privatisation programme and immediately halt all of the planned redundancies of both police officers and support staff.

“I have been briefed by the present West Midlands Police chief executive and I can confirm there is more than sufficient funds available from the financial reserve to allow me to secure all of the jobs, which have currently been identified for redundancy.

“I believe the people of Coventry have felt annexed to the West Midlands since the police force amalgamation in the early 70s, that is why I have made several visits to the city to engage with the electorate and business owners.

“If I am elected, Coventry will have its own local policing panel, which will ensure that the issues specific to Coventry are addressed by local people and by local police officers.”

Independent: Bishop Derek Webley: In June 2009, Derek Webley became the first ever independent head of the Police Authority. He claims to have provided an invaluable link between West Midlands Police Authority and local communities, having worked closely with senior faith leaders across the West Midlands.

He is one of the District Bishops of the New Testament Church of God with responsibility for parts of Birmingham and Solihull.

He has announced a £10 million package to cut crime, including a £1m fund purely for Coventry in a bid to crack down on anti-social behaviour.

“Only an independent candidate could successfully run a fund like this,” he said.

“If a party political candidate was to run such a scheme there would always be a danger that they would prioritise projects favoured political associates. “As an independent I can guarantee that won’t happen.”

Independent: Cath Hannon: Another former police officer, Handsworth’s Cath Hannon spent over 30 years working her up to the rank of Detective Superintendent before leaving in 2010.

Her family immigrated from Ireland in the late 1950s, with her father working at the Canley car plant for 20 years while her mother gave up her career as a nurse to bring up five children.

Her main pledges focus community involvement and consulting residents on changes they want to see from the force.

She will also review the criminal justice system to in a bid to make victims and witnesses at the heart of the process, as well as tackling violent, abuse and hate crimes - including flagging up lslamophobia as a specific hate crime flag - similar to how racist and anti-Semitic incidents are recorded - and quarterly publishing the data.

She told us: “The first step is to understand how communities communicate with each other and the police. This could be represented as a mapping exercise so I understand the current frameworks, which communities are represented and by whom as well as those who have less of a voice. My key aim is the safety and security of people so I would expect policing to alter where it is not being delivering to the satisfaction of communities.”

UKIP: Bill Etheridge: Sedgley’s Bill Etheridge admits to not having any involvement with police before his bid to become commissioner but claims his freshness to the force is a positive. “I am open to new ideas and will be there to represent both the police interests and those of the public,” he said on his website.

He has stood for council for the growing UK Independence Party and has been selected as Dudley North candidate in the 2015 General Election.

He has pledged to fight any contractual changes for officers, as well as change the current rota system, and is another who wants to fight further privatisation of the force.

He also wants to create Zero Tolerance Policing Zones, where any crime reported will be investigated fully and to the highest possible standard. Other hopes include cutting red tape and influencing judges on delivering more sensible sentences.

He told us: “I intend to change the whole culture of policing in the West Midlands to ensure everything is about officers out on the beat seeing and being seen putting the rights of the victim and the innocent first.

“The people of Coventry will see many more police patrolling their streets and hopefully they will be able to develop a friendly, trusting relationship with their local community bobby.”

Liberal Democrats: Ayoub Khan: Many Lib Dems will be surprised their party is running in the election but it was announced in October that Birmingham barrister Ayoub Khanb would stand.

He is a former council cabinet member in the city and has been a General Election candidate in Ladywood. Mr Khan’a pledges include the role being driven by consultation rather than political dogma and said his community politics would suit the role. He also wants to engage with front-line officers directly as well as with key figures in the force.

“My watchwords for effective policing are Prevent, Protect and Re-assure - or PPR for short. We need to prevent crime, protect public and property but also re-assure people, especially the vulnerable. Crime is generally coming down but it is still far too high and I am well aware of how the fear of crime can restrict people’s daily life, not just the elderly but young people too.”

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