Politicians 'will remove police's independence'
A CANDIDATE in next week's South Wales Police Commissioner elections has warned of the dangers of introducing political influence over policing.
Mike Baker, who is standing as an independent, said that once representatives of political parties are in charge of forces "police will lose all independence" and never be able to get it back.
The public go to the polls on Thursday, November 15, to elect police and crime commissioners, new posts that come with the power to control police budgets, hire and fire chief constables, and decide policing priorities.
Each force in Wales and England outside London will have a commissioner, who will replace the existing police authorities.
Mr Baker, a former policeman who is now a lawyer, said: "It is vital that the communities of South Wales are alive to what is happening.
"Politicians are trying to become their party representative in charge of the police, and if that happens then the police will lose all independence and it will never be recovered.
"I am not affiliated to, nor been a member of, any political party — as commissioner I will take my lead from the people of South Wales and not from party political leaders in either Westminster or Cardiff Bay.
"I will listen to everyone who has something to say regarding victim support, offender rehabilitation and management and particularly the fight against all forms of crime."
He also urged as many people as possible to take part in the ballot on Thursday, regardless of who they decide to vote for.
There are four candidates in South Wales — along with Mr Baker there is fellow independent Tony Verderame, along with Caroline Jones for the Tories, and Labour's Alun Michael.
The Dyfed-Powys race is between Christine Gwyther for Labour and Christopher Salmon for the Conservatives.
The UK Government says commissioners will make police forces more accountable to the communities they serve — but fears have been raised about how many people will actually vote on Thursday.
Some are predicting a turnout of just 15 per cent in the elections — which are costing some £75 million to stage — prompting concerns that a low turnout would undermine the legitimacy of commissioners.