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Election day looms for the West Midlands

SPEAKING OUT: Derek Webley, District Bishop of the New Testament Church of God and outgoing chair of West Midlands Police Authority speaks at recent hustings

DEATHS IN custody, cracking down on gang violence and banning English Defence League (EDL) marches were just some of the topics thrown at all seven Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) candidates who are battling to run West Midlands Police at a recent hustings.

As election day looms, the pressure is mounting on the candidates vying for the £100,000-a-year post, with responsibilities including holding the Chief Constable to account.

Candidates attending the debate, chaired by Desmond Jaddoo, founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum at The Drum in Aston, were Matt Bennett (Con), a former Birmingham city councillor who said the disproportionate number of stop and search cases among ethnic minorities was a ‘running sore’ within the police that had to be challenged.

Barrister and Birmingham city councillor Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem) said the current 15- minute police target of responding to 999 calls should be reduced to five.

Former police detective Mike Rumble (Ind) said he was against any privatisation of the police and wanted to replace the police complaints body with civilians.

Bob Jones (Lab) a Wolverhampton city councillor said he wanted to protect neighbourhood policing and see the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) replaced with a body that ‘had real teeth’.

Former police detective superintendent Cath Hannon (Ind) said she was proud of her Handsworth roots and was keen to re-establish better links with schools and young people to get them engaged in society. She would also like to see 24-hour medical support in police custody blocks.

Derek Webley, District Bishop of the New Testament Church of God and outgoing chair of West Midlands Police Authority (Ind) said as the former Police Authority chair he was proud of the fact that he did not hide away in police HQ, but had often ‘faced the music’ and took meetings out to the community. He also highlighted the dangers of ‘stop and account’ incidents not being recorded.

Bill Etheridge (UKIP), a showroom manager at a home improvement shop said he was for the victim, not the criminal, with people saying they wantied a police force they could trust.

The audience wanted reassurance that the future PCC would make sure victims of crime ‘did not end up doing the police’s job for them.’

Among questions on how they would tackle domestic violence and re-open an inquiry into the 21 victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, all candidates were asked if they would continue with their current careers as many saw the PCC role as a full-time job.

Many candidates agreed it was a 25-hour a day job, but Derek Webley won cheers when he replied that he would not be giving up his ministry at the New Testament Church of God in George Street, Lozells, because it “empowered him to serve.”

“I intend to stay in the heart of the community because it keeps me real and would prevent me from becoming institutionalised and compromised,” he said.

“As an independent candidate I would take my mandate from the people not the politicians.”

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