Hustings were held at the University this Tuesday evening for the four candidates hoping to become Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
The ‘Question Time’ debate is ahead of an election on 15 November, when forty-one separate polls will be held across England and Wales. BBC East Midlands Political Editor, John Hess, chaired the debate in the moderately filled Law and Social Sciences lecture theatre.
PCC is a new role, created by the coalition government. The 41 PCCs will replace the current Policing Authorities system, who had been appointed police advisors. The new, locally-elected PCC is to ensure the maintenance of policing in their area, and hold the Chief Constable to account.
The changes aim to give the public a greater voice in matters of policing, however principle concerns about the new post are with political impartiality. The position also requires no previous policing experience, leading to some critics to suggest that the post will not be filled by someone with the necessary qualifications. The change comes at a time when Nottinghamshire Police is having its budget cut by over £42 million.
Issues affecting students and young people were the main focus in the questioning of the Nottinghamshire candidates on Tuesday evening. Calls for a more visible police presence in student areas, such as Lenton, were the focus of several questions.
Candidates Mr Tipping and Dr Chadran declared the importance of “getting to know” local police teams and increased “trust”, respectively. Mr Roberts spoke of a “balance” to be struck between increasing frontline officers and heightening “efficiency”, such as placing temporary CCTV in current crime hotspots.
Not as convinced of the effectiveness of CCTV as the other candidates, Mr Spencer declared that as PCC he would target police resources to student areas during their peak crime times, such as mid-September. There was talk of ensuring “transparent crime recording” by Spencer, even if it meant an initial increase in crime figures.
The Students Union President, Amos Teshuva, asked whether if elected the PCC would commit to regular meetings with students, claiming that they were out of touch with the student voice. Further comments from the audience citing experiences of police inadequacy emphasised the notion that relations need to be improved between young people and the police in Nottingham.
Tipping and Chandran pledged to set up student surgeries: Chadran reasoned that he “cannot pretend” to be in touch with students, whilst Tipping resolved that he would make these meetings more frequent than he had previously promised. Roberts said that he didn’t believe that there was a “bad relationship between police and students”, despite the media portrayal of student behaviour. Tipping also regretted the fact that the press “demonises young people”.
Roberts also pledged an “interest group” although less frequent than that proposed by his Labour contender. Spencer offered “meaningful forums” and “transparent crime recording”, even if it meant an initial increase in crime figures. Although he acclaimed the most effective solution to crime against university-goers was to educate students about how to avoid being a crime victim.
The candidates were unanimous that most police officers should not carry guns. Gang violence, equality in the police force, suggestions of pubs and clubs paying for policing surrounding night-time drinking, and whether the candidates felt confident about the PCC duty of confronting senior officers, were amongst other questions put forward in the evening.
The session began and ended with a poll. A fairly even spread of hands was seen before for each of the candidates, but Spencer was in favour at the end of the debate with 45 out of an audience of about 75. Tipping and Roberts both received about 15 votes. Chandran received one vote.
Alice Jones and Emily Tripp