Gwent police and crime commissioner Ian Johnston promises probe of forced retirement rule
IAN JOHNSTON became Gwent's new police and crime commissioner after the result's of the historic first election for the role were revealed today - and promised to examine a rule which forces officers to retire after 30 years' service.
The independent candidate and former Gwent Police senior policeman from Oakdale, beat Labour's Hamish Sandison in a massive disappointment for the party.
The newly-elected commissioner, 60, has told the Argus that he wants to review regulations that allow police officers to be compulsory retired after 30 years, but says he won't stop police station front desk closures.
The former 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 Gwent Police Authority, will set the force's budget and will be able to hire and fire the chief constable.
The result was announced yesterday at Newport's Velodrome – where early on in the counting local Labour actvisits were weary that it would be a close call.
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.
The newly elected commissioner 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 its 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 compulsory 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 review the decision to make 15 of Gwent's 30 Custody Detention Officers redundant, he said he had no plans to reverse it.
He said he will meet chief constable Carmel Napier on Monday and will take time to see police authority staff, who are to transfer to the new police and crime commissioner office, who he will tell that their jobs are safe.
Mr Johnston said that he will not yet reveal who he is to appoint as a deputy until he tells the Gwent police and crime panel – a body that will scrutinise the commissioner – who it is.
Mr Johnston, who was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 2003, served in all ranks from constable to chief superintendent and was head of CID in Gwent between 1995 and 1999.
As a senior detective Mr Johnston dealt with a number of high profile murder cases, including the case of Tyrone France whose remains were found in Wentwood Forest.
Labour candidate Mr Sandison told the Argus he was very disappointed with the result, and said the most important reason for his defeat was that people didn't have enough information about candidates or the job.
"Some people saw the job as a policing role, while I saw the job and I think the legislation is clear as about holding the police to account," he said.
"I think all the candidates ran a good campaign but we were all handicapped by a lack of information."