Devon police commissioner boycott call is "deeply irresponsible"
A CALL by Britain's former top cop for a boycott of the upcoming election for a new police commissioner in Devon and Cornwall has been branded "wrong and deeply irresponsible".
Policing Minister Damian Green has taken ex-Met police chief Sir Ian Blair to task over his comments urging voters to stay away from the polls next month.
The Minister insisted the elected office would give the public a say for the first time on important decisions about crime and policing in their area.
And addressing fears of a record low turnout, Mr Green argued whatever happened, every Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) would have more legitimacy than the "existing unaccountable, invisible police authorities" which they will replace.
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It came after Sir Ian encouraged people not to vote on November 15, in a bid to stop the controversial flagship policy.
He said: "I've never said this before but I actually hope people don't vote because that is the only way we are going to stop this. I've always been someone who says vote."
Sir Ian argued the design of the posts were ill conceived.
He said: "If they were going to break policing up, do it in a completely different way, small cities and small towns, perfect. But that is not what you have got.
"How can one person represent the conservative shires of Oxfordshire and Slough? What is this?
"Remember the police authorities are being swept away, they are being replaced by a police and crime panel who can't even talk to the chief constable.
"This is just a very strange issue to come forward with at such a difficult time for the country."
Voters across England and Wales are due to go to the polls on November 15 to elect a police and crime commissioner for each force area.
The Government has faced criticism for holding the elections in winter and not making enough efforts to publicise the elections and failing to offer candidates a free mail shot with their policies.
An advertising campaign has been launched by the Home Office a month before the first commissioners are elected into the posts which replace local police authorities made up of councillors.
The PCC, who will be paid £85,000 a year in Devon and Cornwall, will have the power to hire and fire chief constables and will also set the force's budget and "strategic direction".
Urging people to vote in the forthcoming election, Mr Green said: "Lord Blair was wrong and deeply irresponsible to say the public should not take part in a democratic election.
"Parliament decided to establish Police and Crime Commissioners and allow the public to have their say through the election of their local PCC.
"For the first time the public will finally have a say on key decisions about crime and policing in their area."
On the issue of turnout, Mr Green said: "What is certainly not for debate is that whatever happens, and however many thousands of people turn out to vote in each force area, every single PCC will have more legitimacy to make important decisions – decisions about what the police do – than the existing unaccountable, invisible police authorities."
He added: "These are historic elections and those who are successful will be pioneers in this new policing landscape."