THE Essex Chronicle and Anglia Ruskin University are giving Essex citizens the unique chance to quiz candidates before casting their vote in the very first Police and Crime Commissioner election.
In 20 days' time, about 1.3 million people in Essex will have the first chance to elect a top police chief and determine how policing runs in your area.
But amid fears the voting turnout will be low, the Essex Chronicle and ARU decided to boost the process by co-hosting a hustings in the heart of the county.
You will get the chance to ask why it is better for the police to be overseen by one £80,000 a year US-style Police and Crime Commissioner instead of a committee of appointees previously elected by the public mainly through local councils.
And you will be able to ask how crime issues will be tackled in your local area.
Once elected the candidate will serve for four years and at our event you will be able to find out how they will work for you before making the all-important voting decision on November 15.
The event will be held at the Lord Ashcroft Building, Anglia Ruskin University, on October 31.
Please arrive at 6.45 for a 7.15pm start.
If you have any questions for the candidates e-mail them in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org marked "Police and Crime Commissioner Question". Please include your name, address and telephone number if possible.
The chairman will select as many questions as can be included the 90-minute session.
ARU says it can accommodate up to 400 people, and evening parking is free in and around the campus.
From Willingale, near Ongar
Robin is national chairman of the English Democrats, a solicitor who runs his own firm in Essex and is past president of the Mid-Essex Law Society.
He is married with three children.
Robin says: "If elected I shall maintain the policing budget for Essex and resist Conservative ministers' plans to cut the budget by 15 per cent. This would lead to a disastrous loss of over 350 police constables and therefore reduce our police force's capability to catch criminals and maintain law and order in Essex!
"If elected every police station in Essex will proudly fly the Cross of St George and will promote Essex's celebrations of St George's Day. I shall insist upon a zero tolerance attitude on the part of Essex police force to petty crime and anti-social behaviour, which blights so many of our communities."
"It is criminals that should be afraid, not good citizens!
"I will have zero tolerance to political correctness in Essex policing and focus Essex Police on traditional English law and order and cracking down on real criminals and gangs.
"When I say that my priority will be "more police – catching criminals", I mean it and I shall not hesitate to use the full powers this office to achieve it.
"So, if you are an Essex voter and you want a police force unfettered by political correctness and doing the job that we all once thought they were paid to do, then on the November 15 vote Robin Tilbrook."Andrew Smith
Originally from Cambridgeshire but now lives in Epping
Andrew has a degree in economics and statistics and is qualified as a chartered accountant.
He is married and has adult children.
Andrew says: "The first PCC has a special responsibility to engage with both police and the public. Recent events show that the police need to be properly accountable. Even good officers can allow standards to slip when not properly supervised.
"I would work for more police officers on our streets (including more Special Constables) and community-based police officers in new local police houses, built by developers. I want Essex Police to be trusted by the public and to re-focus on the side of the householder and victims. No one should be fearful of the police but those engaged in criminal or anti-social activity must learn they deserve no favours or sympathy.
"Candidates from a career in the police or security may not be best qualified to challenge police performance and Home Office pressure. Instead my proven professional skills and training can squeeze the best value out of shrinking police budgets and ensure openness and accountability. The police and crime commissioner must campaign with other agencies outside his control to achieve improvements for Essex.
"My slogan is 'RESPECT and PROTECT' to make Essex Police accountable and united with the public. Make Essex Police the best in Britain and Essex the safest county.
"See my website at target="_blank">www.smith4essex.orgLinda Belgrove
Linda has worked in a diverse range of business environments including being self-employed and she spent ten years with a city law firm.
For the last four years she has served as an independent member of the Essex Police Authority, and was vice-chairman until June of this year.
She has been married for 35 years.
She said: "I was the Essex representative to the Association of Police Authorities, police staff council and I was part of the joint strategic committees for Kent/Essex and the Eastern Region.
"I regularly met with the chief constable to call the force to account. I have made decisions at the highest levels of police governance. Equally I have regularly gone out on patrol to engage with frontline officers.
"I am determined to keep politics out of policing. The public and the police must be consulted, listened to and advised truthfully.
"I am proud to have been a parish councillor and a trustee of the Rural Community Council of Essex.
"I will be open and transparent about my decisions. The public must know how their money is being spent on policing.
"I will fight any further government cuts to the police budget.
"I support voluntary groups in the reduction of crime and dealing with the victims of crime. I will address road safety issues.
"I have always engaged with the public and I will expand and improve on this process as police and crime commissioner."Valerie Morris-Cook
Valerie is educated to A-level standard and has a Btec in Business Administration.
She is general manager for Wincanton Logistics with the responsibility for the Procter and Gamble Contract based in West Thurrock.
She is also deputy leader of Thurrock Council with portfolio responsibility for housing.
She has three grown-up children and a Cocker Spaniel,
Valerie said: "Together we can bring crime down.
"As police and crime commissioner I will focus on bringing the community together to assist the police in reducing anti-social behaviour, ensure victims are supported and criminals are properly punished.
" In these constrained times I have the skills to deliver improved results with fewer resources."
Valerie pledges to:
Work with the whole community to prevent and tackle crime
Put victims at the heart of the policing strategy
Police will be at the heart of the community
Fight the worrying and growing trend of domestic violence and sexual crimes
Look how Essex can use new technologies and techniques to tackle crime
Put crime reduction at the centre of every planning, housing, health and education decision made in Essex
Protect frontline officers
Oppose privatisation of our policeMich Thwaites
Mick has enjoyed a varied and long career in the police force as assistant chief constable, head of traffic and head of operations division.
He has worked across Essex and as head of traffic he covered the whole of Harlow and Colchester.
He has served in three police forces – City of London, Metropolitan and Essex.
He is married and has three children and three grandchildren.
Mick said: "I have over 34 years of experience working in some of the toughest and most challenging areas of policing.
"I am running as an independent candidate because I believe politics has no part to play in the role of police crime commissioner.
"Having spent the last 12 months speaking to people across Essex, victims of crime, mental health charities, local authorities, police officers and communities, some common themes come through loud and clear.
"Essex people don't want politics deciding policing priorities; they do want to see cops on our streets. They want the police to turn up when they call them, take their problems seriously in order to make their lives better.
"They don't want to become victims, they want less crime and they don't want their lives blighted by antisocial behaviour.
"My aim will be to make Essex safer and to do all I can, working with others to reduce the number of victims who suffer from crime and antisocial behaviour.
"The voice of the people of Essex will be heard loud and clear if I am elected as this county's first police and crime commissioner."Nick Alston
Nick went to King Edward VI Grammar School and Cambridge University.
He is married and has a son in the Royal Artillery in Afghanistan and a daughter who is a teacher. He has two grandchildren.
Nick said: "I was born in Harwich police station and lived all across Essex, following my father's career as a senior police officer.
He said: "After Cambridge I joined the Royal Navy, and then moved to defence and national security. After 32 years' public service, I joined a major international company for five years as the director responsible for security, again often working with police around the world.
"I am now on the advisory board of the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at UCL and a director at Broomfield Hospital.
"I am enthusiastic about this new democratic role to which I bring unique experience and a record of success to help me both challenge and support the chief constable.
"The role will enable all of us in Essex to have a direct say in setting the priorities of our police and to hold them to account."
Nick's priorities are:
Policing that meets local needs
Policing that is prompt and professional
Effective cooperation between police, councils and the voluntary sector, building on the good work of the Safer Essex initiatives
To be an influential voice in leading public engagement about crime reduction and policing, and to listen to and speak for the victims of crime
For more details see www.nickalston.com