‘Compulsory retirement for officers under review’ - Gwent police commissioner
4:30pm Wednesday 21st November 2012 in News
Last week Gwent elected its first police and crime commissioner, independent Ian Johnston. Here he gives his first ideas for how he will handle his new role. IAN JOHNSTON became Gwent’s first police and crime commissioner.
The independent candidate and former senior policeman from Oakdale beat Labour’s Hamish Sandison in a massive disappointment for the party.
Speaking just after the result was announced on Friday morning, the newly elected commissioner said one of his priorities would be to review compulsory retirement of officers after 30 years in the job.
But he said he won’t stop police station front desk closures.
The former Gwent Police chief superintendent insists he has a mandate – despite being elected by just 7.01 per cent of the 424,353-strong electorate with turnout woeful across Gwent at just 14.3 per cent.
Under his new role Mr Johnston will be responsible for holding the police to account in Gwent, taking over the job of the former Gwent Police Authority, will set the force’s budget and will be able to hire and fire the chief constable.
The result was announced on Friday at Newport’s Velodrome. After first preferences across Gwent were counted Mr Johnston was just 444 votes ahead at 23,531 to Hamish Sandison’s 23,087.
But when second preferences for those who backed third-place Tory Nick Webb and fourth-place independent Chris Wright came into the picture it came increasingly clear that their voters had overwhelmingly backed Mr Johnston.
In the end the ex-top cop won the race with just 29,748 votes against Mr Sandison’s 24,636.
Mr Johnston said: “It was a very close run thing in the end. I do feel I have got a mandate.
Fourteen per cent [turnout] was really disappointing but I don’t think now is the time to score cheap political points, in respect of how the election has been managed by the government.
“Thankfully I’ve won and it’s now time to get on with the job on behalf of the people of Gwent.”
The police and crime commissioner said he is going to review a regulation that allows police officers to be compulsorily retired after 30 years: “It’s a very blunt instrument and I don’t think we need to use it in the way we are, so I’m going to review it.”
Mr Johnston said he was not going to stop the front desk closure programme, but would be speaking to the Gwent Police chief officer team about the rationale behind them and about the communication with communities and elected officials like AMs and MPs over the issue.
He added that while he would reviewthe decision to make 15 of Gwent’s 30 Custody Detention Officers redundant, he said he had no plans to reverse it.
He will take time to see police authority staff, who are to transfer to the new police and crime commissioner office, and will tell them that their jobs are safe.