A Different Beat

Ian Chisnall is standing to be the first elected police commissioner for Sussex. Frank le Duc asks why he thinks we should vote for him

If Ian Chisnall had his way, we might not be voting for an elected police commissioner on Thursday 15 November. He wouldn’t necessarily choose to keep the current set up – the police authority – either. He noted: “Just because most of us cannot name the members of our police authority does not make them ineffective.” And he readily admits: “The only time I’ve ever stood for election was in 1979 when I stood as a student sabbatical officer at Brighton Poly. I was second – out of two.”

Independent Advisor
So why is Ian Chisnall running for the post? The 51-year-old community activist emphasised that he was an independent and said: “I’m not sure this is the best strategy the government could have adopted but they’ve created a role and to me the role makes sense only if it isn’t filled by a politician.

“I’ve got experience of working with the police on the Independent Advisory Group. As an independent adviser, you’re working as a critical friend. I’ve got experience of working in the broader sense within the criminal justice world. I was the chair of Surrey and Sussex Courts Board for a number of years.

“I’m also involved in Sussex Pathways which I helped set up. It provides mentors for people leaving Lewes Prison if they want one. Last year we worked with 82 people. Their reoffending rate was 29 per cent. Nationally it was about 65 per cent.”

Mr Chisnall is also the chairman of Sussex Central YMCA and works for Churches Together in Sussex, a network of a thousand churches. He also set up Fare Share, the food recycling project in Brighton.

Brighton Street Pastors
He is perhaps best known locally for helping to set up the Brighton Street Pastors scheme two years ago. The street pastors work with police, door staff and taxi marshals, among others, helping people in distress in West Street on a Friday and Saturday night. He said: “The street pastors also work with Safe Space, which is run by Sussex Central YMCA, which I happen to chair. It’s like a field hospital.” Safe Space and the street pastors help keep people out of A&E at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

He started his campaign proper last month, supported by his wife Jan, who manages the Circus pre-school near Preston Circus. As yet, Ian has no official opponent. Two Conservatives have declared their hand – East Sussex County Council leader Peter Jones and Arun District Council member Paul Dendle, who also has a county-wide role with the party. The current police authority chairman Steve Waight may also throw his hat into the ring for the Tories.

The only Labour candidate to set out his stall so far is Paul Richards, a former government adviser from Eastbourne. The Greens and the Liberal Democrats are not expected to put up an official candidate. Mr Chisnall believes, though, that the £5,000 deposit will unfairly put off people who might have stood as independents.

He said: “There’s a very clear distinction between the role of the police commissioner and operational policing, which is the job of the Chief Constable. This role is about setting strategic direction and holding people to account. I’ve got real experience of working with communities and I hope I come with a fresh set of ideas.”

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