FIVE candidates who hope to become the Sussex Police and Criminal Investigation Commissioner (PCC) will be up for election tomorrow.
They are reigning Katy Bourne (Conservative) and four challengers – Jamie Bennett (Liberal Democrat), Kahina Bouhassane (Green), Paul Richards (Labor and Co-operative) and Roy Williams (Independent).
Each candidate received a dozen questions submitted by community groups and voters.
Below are the answers from Green candidate Kahina Bouhassane.
Why do you want to be the Sussex Police Department and Detective Superintendent?
Despite the hard work of many officials, Sussex policing has been suspended.
Over ten years of Tory leadership and austerity has left a system that doesn’t work.
Crimes are not investigated and it is our local community that suffers.
I want to stand up for people who are not heard.
The system is catastrophically unfair for the rural Sussex communities, black and minority ethnic groups, and leaves women and those who identify with other marginalized genders vulnerable.
I am determined to make the Sussex police force a police force for the people.
What are you going to bring into the role?
I have personal, lived experience of crime and policing problems in Sussex and a passion and energy for reform.
As a mixed race woman who has lived in both rural Sussex villages and major cities, I have seen all too often how inequality in our criminal justice system affects people outside the demographic majority.
I’m going to bring in the perspective of a warm, listening, human face, not a career politician.
I currently work in a school, support the learning and development of children on the autism spectrum, and worked extensively as a freelance journalist before switching to apprenticeship.
I am determined to meet with Sussex communities every day and use your voice in decision-making.
What can a commissioner do that a police and crime committee cannot – and are the extra costs incurred by the PCC’s office good value for money?
In short, nothing and no.
The Greens believe that the role of the PCC should be abolished by returning control and accountability to locally elected councilors through a panel and leaving operational oversight to the experts.
The PCC posts were a costly failure with low turnout and limited public accountability.
While I would use my term of office to address the fundamental reforms that our policing needs, I would also advocate for the position itself to be abolished.
Should PCCs like American presidents only have two terms? What are the reasons for serving as PCC for more than two terms?
The PCC’s position should be deleted entirely, with control and accountability given to a politically balanced body of elected local councils.
But while the post exists, there should definitely be term restrictions.
The role is to serve the needs of the Sussex people and not provide a comfortable job for a career politician.
What would you say to migrants, refugees and people from black, Asian and other ethnic minorities who are wary of the police? How would you respond to concerns that stopping and searching disproportionately affects some communities?
As a mixed race woman, I would say that I understand your caution and that reforms are needed to build trust between police and communities suffering from structural – and overt – racism.
I recently challenged the current PCC directly to the Sussex Police and Crime Panel over the fact that blacks are stopped and searched ten times more often than whites in Sussex.
Ms. Bourne outraged that this was “proportionate” and denied that the practice was discriminatory. I couldn’t argue more strongly.
The vigil for Sarah Everard and the Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests ended with riot police pulling people away while the English Defense League and other right-wing groups were treated with child gloves.
How would you balance the reactions to different protests?
I very much acknowledge the unequal treatment you have described.
I found it deeply disturbing and unacceptable. Everyone should be treated equally before the law.
An aggressive approach to peaceful demonstrators for equality, human rights and the planet that does not pursue clear incidents of hate crimes is not the policing we need. My focus would be on making lawful protest possible safely.
“The government’s attempts to silence dissent with the Police, Crime, Conviction and Courts Act are a shame.”
How do you ensure that women and girls are protected from male violence and abuse in their schools, on the streets and in their homes?
Misogynist hate crimes have risen sharply across the county in recent years, but conviction rates remain shockingly low.
I would work with partners to treat misogyny as a hate crime. Invest in professional officials and train all officials to deal with domestic violence and misogynist hate crimes misogynist attitudes – we need to focus on challenging male violence rather than telling women not to provoke it.
In addition, I will take steps to further support gender equality within the force itself. Recent figures show that fewer than a third of Sussex police officers are women and less than a fifth at the inspector level.
How will you work with the Sussex Police to learn from cases like the Shana Grice murder and to ensure officers are trained and women are taken seriously when reporting crimes?
This was a shocking case, and my heart goes out to Mrs. Grice’s family and friends. The police have misunderstood it repeatedly.
Stalking and violence against women are incredibly common and women fail.
The Sussex Police Department recorded 2,020 stalking incidents through March 2020, but only 29 stalking protection orders were issued in 2020.
Regular training and the belief that victims should be taken seriously are clearly required.
We also need to address the gender imbalance within the Sussex police force.
While it’s great that three of the top ranks are held by women, there are twice as many men as women in the entire force, and at the inspector level, men are four to one more numerous than women.
How do we get the police to cooperate with councils, patrol where and at what times we wish?
This is one reason the PCC post should go and stronger Sussex town council oversight should return.
In the meantime, Sussex’s community safety partnerships are vital to ensure this local union.
As the PCC, I will actively seek conversations with residents across Sussex to understand these neighborhood priorities and to encourage a hands-on approach to listening across the troop.
How do you think the Sussex Police Department meet the police needs of their busy urban areas without neglecting the rural villages?
It’s about getting smarter, more focused, and fairer.
We must stop wasting police time on disproportionate stops and searches of young black men or on people in possession of very small amounts of soft drugs and, for example, employ more responsive rural crime specialists.
But part of it is about asking for a bigger pie than just splitting what is there.
Another four years with a Tory PCC unwilling to oppose cuts by the Tory government won’t do that. I’ll fight for the resources we really need in Sussex.
How committed are you to ensuring that the police enforce the 2004 Hunting Act?
I am very committed. There is no excuse for those who would break the law to brutally abuse wild animals.
How will you tackle drug-related crime?
It is clear that criminalizing drug trafficking does little to address the harms of abuse, channeling large profits to violently organized criminal gangs, consuming significant police resources, and leaving a significant number of casual users with criminal records affecting their life chances.
The Greens believe in a legalized and regulated system.
As a PCC, I want to explore how we can use resources to fight the violent and exploitative practices of organized crime (e.g. county boundaries) and focus on treating the harm some users suffer from drugs as a public health issue .
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