Lib-Dem turns independent in battle for top police post
A former Westcountry council leader is to stand to be the region's first elected police commissioner – but not for his party, the Liberal Democrats.
Councillor Brian Greenslade, once Devon County Council leader, will be an independent candidate at November's election for a US-style police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall.
Mr Greenslade, a former chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, which will be abolished to make way for the commissioner, has fiercely opposed the new system, warning of policing being politicised.
But he says he will stand for the £85,000-a-year post because "we are where we are", and believes he can "make a difference".
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The Devon county and district councillor is the third candidate in the race. Open "primary" elections saw former naval base commander Tony Hogg secure the Conservative Party nomination and Plymouth councillor Nicky Williams will stand for Labour following a vote among party members in the two counties.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been uneasy with the Tory-driven policy, which proponents say will increase accountability, may yet stand a candidate in party colours after members in the region – who originally followed guidance from central office and opted not to get involved – decided they wanted to put someone forward.
Mr Greenslade hit out at the "obscene" £75 million cost of holding elections across 41 force areas in England and Wales later this year at the same time as deep cuts to police service budgets.
He said: "It is a matter of public record that I robustly opposed the introduction of the Government's policy of directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners. There is no need or no place for party politics and 'Americanisation' in this type of election or in governing the police service.
"We routinely expect our officers to carry out their duties without displaying party political preference and we who seek to govern the police service should do likewise.
"Neither do I believe it is right that so much power should be concentrated in the hands of one person.
"It is obscene that the Government are prepared to spend some £75 million to pay for these elections while forcing a cut in police officer numbers of 16,000, of which 700 are in Cornwall, Devon and the Scilly Isles. My priority was for coppers, not commissioners."
He added: "However we are where we are and after very carefully considering my position, and having had positive feedback and encouragement from people across the force area, I have decided my experience can make a difference to delivering effective and efficient policing, drawing strongly on the views residents have for combating crime."
The police authority is being scrapped to make way for the commissioner role, plus a panel to act as a watchdog. Chief constables will still be in charge of operational policing.