ARUNDEL councillor Paul Dendle is seeking to become Sussex’s first police commissioner.
Mr Dendle, Arun councillor for the town and the council’s cabinet member for the environment, has thrown his hat into the ring as a would-be Conservative candidate for the historic first election of the county’s police and crime commissioner, later this year.
If elected, he proposes a radical shake-up of the policing system within Sussex, which he feels is “outdated, unreceptive and inefficient”.
He says he would focus on bolstering frontline services for the force, increasing patrols and slashing what he claims are bureaucratic paper-chase constraints officers are forced to deal with on a daily basis.
“I want to bring a change to the way policing operates in the area. It’s an old organisation and they need to be shaken up, from the top down.
“I aim to work at a grassroots level to find out exactly what communities need and to work with police to deliver those needs.
“I would aim to reduce the amount of time officers would have to spend in the back office, under a mountain of paperwork and forms.
“For them, the current system of arresting someone is a bureaucratic nightmare. It takes hours and hours to go through and deal with.
“I would like to streamline the way the force works, cut back on bureaucracy, allowing officers to do the job they were trained to do – policing our streets and keeping them safe.”
The position, created under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act by the coalition government, will see the 41 police forces in England and Wales have their own, elected commissioner, replacing existing police authorities.
Commissioners will be able to hire and fire chief constables, set the force’s budget and give strategic direction on tackling crime.
Former Sussex Police Authority chairman Dr James Walsh, a Liberal Democrat Arun, county council and Littlehampton town councillor, described the change as “a retrograde step in policing”.
He said: “I think it’s an untried, untested American import and I can’t see it ever being a success.
“I don’t think that a single police commissioner for the whole of Sussex, from Rye to Selsey, can be as accountable as a police authority of 17 members, working from all parts of East and West Sussex.”
Littlehampton Ham ward Labour councillor Mike Northeast attacked the timing of the introduction of police commissioners amid nationwide cuts in police funding.
He said: “I don’t feel that this is the correct time for this sort of thing to be proposed now, where we are seeing widespread, severe cutbacks in police services.
“If you have a politician in a position of power, running something like the police force, the decisions made during that posting will obviously be politically motivated. It could lead to a post-code police force.
“But my biggest gripe is the amount of money that it will cost. Amid major policing cutbacks, and a visible impact on frontline policing, do I feel it’s right to employ an individual, who could be paid in up to £100,000 to effectively control the region’s police force? No, I don’t.
“This should be a group effort, controlled by a spread of individuals from across the community.”
Mr Dendle rebuffed claims of a postcode police force, with resources targeted at areas favoured by the commissioner. He argued such views were “irrational” and false.
“Operationally, the police will always be controlled by the chief constable. The police commissioner cannot interfere with that.
“I can’t imagine any chief constable in their right mind being told not to police a certain area and to allocate resources to a different area, instead.
“If you look at the Metropolitan Police, which is currently controlled by the mayor of London, this notion of political policing does not exist.
“So I think this is an utterly irrational argument to suggest in the first place.”
Mr Dendle faces competition from the leader of East Sussex County Council and former chairman of Sussex Police Authority, Peter Jones, to be nominated as the Conservative candidate at a selection meeting on February 24.For more details about Mr Dendle’s bid, visit his website at www.pauldendle.blogspot.com
For more information about other candidates and the commissioner’s roles, visit www.sussexpcc.co.uk
What do you think? Would a police commissioner such as Paul Dendle, from Arundel, make a better job of running Sussex Police than the existing authority? Cast your vote in the panel to the right of the screen, and leave your comments below.