Lib Dems join three-horse race for top police position
The election of Devon and Cornwall's first police commissioner is poised to be a three-horse race after Liberal Democrats confirmed they were looking for a candidate.
The party in the region initially planned not to put forward a would-be commissioner after taking instructions from head office.
But the Western Morning News reported last month a U-turn was on the cards after senior members of the party in the Westcountry intervened.
Now the Lib Dem regional executive has rubber-stamped the move, and the call has gone out to those wanting to stand under the party's banner in November's vote.
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The Conservatives are currently drawing up a shortlist and Labour members in the two counties have two nominees to choose from.
It is thought there are already three Lib Dem candidates "in the frame". Devon county councillor Brian Greenslade has previously indicated he wanted to stand. Observers think smaller parties or independents will be discouraged given the costs associated with running a campaign over a vast area.
There will be 41 votes across the country to elect US-style Police and Crime Commissioners in every force area. The post in Devon and Cornwall will command an £85,000-a-year salary.
They will control a force's budget and have the power to hire and fire chief constables, who will remain in charge of operational policing. Commissioners will replace police authorities – panels of local politicians and community figures who oversee the force.
The Government, principally from the Conservative side of the coalition, wanted them abolished because it says they are anonymous.
Elected figureheads, it argues, will be more accountable to taxpayers underwriting their salary.
The Lib Dems opposed commissioners as they feared a rise of "Judge Dredd-style" figures more interested in populism than policing. But with the party a bigger force in the Westcountry than Labour, it would have left a huge hole in the race without their presence.
Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, said the party needed to be influencing the debate on cutting crime, but focusing on repeat offenders and involving victims of crime.
He added: "The Police and Crime Commissioner is going to have a major influence on how our area is policed and how resources are deployed, and that will impact on everyone's lives."
Labour members are choosing from Plymouth councillor Nicky Williams and Patrick Canavan, who previously stood to be the Mayor of Torbay.
Figures expressing an interest in running as the Conservative candidate include former soldier Paul Biddle, Torbay Council's Alison Hernandez, ex-RNAS Culdrose boss Tony Hogg and Cornwall councillor Lance Kennedy.