THE election race for a new police chief has hit further controversy after the man who has been overseeing Thames Valley Police quit the contest, branding it “a party political campaign”.
Khan Juna, former chairman of Thames Valley Police Authority, said the price and effort of campaigning to be Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) meant it was impossible for an independent candidate to win.
The £85,000-a-year job will replace the authority and duties include setting the force budget and policing plans, and engaging with the public. Mr Juna, who had hoped to stand as an independent, said the process was becoming too politicised.
The winner will have to sign an oath of impartiality before they start the job on November 22.
Mr Juna said: “The officers of the Crown are responsible to uphold the law above party politics. If there is a party influence it will be very difficult to keep confidence in this public service.”
And Mr Juna said the £75m cost of the nationwide elections would be better spent on frontline policing.
Mr Juna, 59, stood on the police authority since 2003 and chaired it for the last four years.
In a statement announcing his withdrawal from the November 15 poll, he said: “This is a flawed policy that had been badly implemented and in these political elections I believe that the public are the real losers – uninformed about the election, ill-informed about the candidates and what they stand for, and with a serious risk of the politicisation of policing.
“These are elections which nobody wanted, which few people know about and which, despite the insincere rhetoric of Government, have turned into yet another party political campaign.
“November 15 will not be a good day for policing in England and Wales.”
Nominations for the post opened last Monday and close on Friday. Andrew Smith, Oxford East Labour MP, said: “There is a lot of time and resources invested in this which could be better spent on policing and crime victims.”
Nicola Blackwood, Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, was unavailable for comment.
Antisocial behaviour victim Jimmy Hayes, 73, of Windale Avenue, Blackbird Leys, said the money would be better spent on policing, adding: “I imagine 50 per cent of the public haven’t a clue and don’t want to know.”
Oxford city councillor Elise Benjamin was set to be the Green Party’s nominee but said the party could not afford to contest the election. She said it would cost £35,000 to send leaflets across the region, adding: “It is prohibitively expensive.”
Candidates must also provide a deposit of £5,000 and 100 supporting signatures from voters. West Berkshire District Council member Anthony Stansfeld is the Conservative candidate, while John Howson, a magistrate from Oxford, is standing for the Lib Dems.
Buckinghamshire salesman Barry Cooper is standing for UKIP. Labour candidate, Amersham barrister Tim Starkey, said: “One advantage of having a party line is it actually tells people about the values of the person standing.”
Headington gun collector Martin Young, charity trustee Patience Awe, Gurcham Singh, and Geoff Howard have said they will stand as independents, but the shortlisted candidates will not be revealed until next Tuesday.
Thames Valley Chief Constable Sara Thornton – when asked if she agreed with the elections – said: “Parliament has decided that’s what we are going to do, so my responsibility is to make sure the transition happens as smoothly as possible and policing in the Thames Valley is improved.
“What I hope people do is look at the manifestos and decide what they want.”
Home Office spokesman Hannah McCarthy said: “PCCs will be elected by the people and will be held accountable at the ballot box – a huge democratic step forward over current invisible and unelected authorities.”