As election day arrives today, a debate was held yesterday evening in the Sir Thomas Boteler School in Latchford for the Police and Crime Commissioner election. All four candidates attended:
- Jonathan Starkey – UKIP candidate, former Councillor from Ellesmere Port and Musician
- John Dwyer – Conservative, retired Assistant Chief Constable and existing PCC since the first election in 2012
- David Keane – Labour Councillor on Warrington Borough Council
- Neil Lewis – Liberal Democrat, entrepreneur and business coach from Chester
Each was given a five minute opening speech about their background, and what they would bring to the role. Jonathan Starkey would be “impartial” and bring “common sense” to the PCC role, and make Cheshire the “safest and best funded force”. John Dwyer stated that he has “built a solid foundation” in his work, delivered his manifesto and added new officers, with “53 in 2015″ bringing the total to 2300. He has also focused on Cheshire’s rural communities and those detained with mental health issues. David Keane stated he is standing for”people and values”, knows what “residents want for the future” and will “stand up for the public service. Neil Lewis talked about his manifesto and 6 key pledges which he felt “all candidates should have”, the increase in the crimes of “abuse” like domestic violence, and how “technology” is changing in relation to crime.
There were four questions asked from members of the audience on the future roles of Police & Community Support Officers (PCSO’s), the difference between closed and non-operational stations, police powers online vs privacy, and how to convince people who have lost trust it is worth talking to the police.
On the future role of PCSO’s John Dwyer believes they still “have a future” as the public “find value in them”, while David Keane stated that he would”listen to what people want” and “defend PCSO’s; who do a wonderful job”, create known officers in communities with decent funding, with the role under”continuous review”. Neil Lewis would “champion PCSO’s” in their role, and look at the fundamental issue of “crime prevention” speaking to schools and neighbourhoods, especially in regard to cyber crime, of which “90% is preventable”. Jonathan Starkey would “increase Police Officers” over PCSO’s and fight for “government grants”.
There was much agreement on the question on Police Stations that the service needs to being engaged with the public in each community.
In regard to the powers the police have with online crimes Neil talked about privacy meaning security. “We don’t give a young person a car and say ‘there you go…’ – we require them to pass a test before they are allowed out on their own. Why don’t we do this with smart phones?” David agreed and said the “scale of cyber crime” should be recognised. John Dwyer agreed that “90% of cyber crime is preventable”, and Jonathan Starkey felt passwords should be changed often, to stop information being tracked and obtained. Cyber crime is seen as a growing issue, and one which all candidates agreed would look at going forward.
The question on trust in the police was raised by an audience who offered advice at a Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Jonathan Starkey believes we should “instill from a young age” that it is a good thing to trust the Police, while John Dwyer admits there has been difficulties in trust but the “report of crimes is increasing”. David believes that “engagement” to create “trust”, and offering the “resources to investigate what the public wants” is the best way forward, while Neil admits it is a challenge but there are “creative ways” to look at this, with the “Fire Service” an example of who to follow, and any complaints will be sent direct to his office to build trust.
At the close of the debate each candidate was given a minute to sum up, and the main points they stand for. John Dwyer talked about his three and a half years in office, how “crimes have come down” but states there is more work to do to “make Cheshire safer” and “hostile to criminals”. Jonathan Starkey thanked Neil for the debate, and talked about how he would “record all crime, be visual & approachable, be accountable” and offer “transparency”. Neil said he was “about the future” and is the “time to change”, prioritise “staying safe online”, “would tackle abuse”, look at “deaths on the road”, and use “collaboration” to save money. David wants to “stand by you”, and wants you to “feel safe” and will be “accountable”, but knows it is a “challenge in the next few years to not accept cuts”, and will “cut crimes not the police.”
Overall I though was a good debate, and I learnt a lot more about the role, and what each candidate stands for. I would say remember to go out and vote to make a difference. For any more information there is the choose my PCC page for Cheshire: