FOR the first time the people of Epping Forest are to be given a choice over who runs their police force.
Nominations close on Friday for candidates hoping to become Essex’s first elected police and crime commissioner (PCC).
The winner will be responsible for setting the force’s priorities, overseeing its budget and hiring its chief constable.
Every force in the country will have its own commissioner, but critics claim there is no demand for a move which could politicise policing.
Among the eight candidates who have registered so far is independent Linda Belgrove, of Alresford, who served for four years as an independent member of the Essex Police Authority.
She said nearly all voters she had spoken to did not want a political party member as PCC.
“The candidates are obviously intelligent, but I've not seen one of them at any meeting we have ever had,” she added.
"So it's rather curious that now it becomes very high profile a whole lot of people come forward. I think we should keep politics out of it."
Conservative candidate Nick Alston, 60, lives in Chelmsford, and is a former Royal Navy officer who has spent three decades working in national defence and security.
He said: “I think it's easy to say 'I don't want policing to be politicised', but if you have an elected person, that's politics.
“If someone's going to stand as an independent, you've got no idea who they are."
Andrew Smith, 63, of Hemnall Street, Epping, is running under the banner of the UK Independence Party.
"It's an elected role, and that's what political means,” he said.
"Crime is a very important issue for the people of Epping Forest and having someone who can represent the people's views is pretty important in getting the police to do a good job.”
Val Morris-Cook, 55, deputy leader of Thurrock Council, is standing as Labour candidate.
She denied that party politics would influence her decision-making.
"I will not be the voice of the police, I will not be the voice of the party or government, I will talk for the residents of Essex," she added.
Candidates so far
• Nick Alston, Conservative, former Royal Navy officer who lives in Chelmsford
• Linda Belgrove, Independent, former member of Essex Police Authority and legal support worker from Alresford
• John Gili-Ross, Independent, technology lecturer and parish councillor who lives near Colchester
• Anthony Lyster, Independent, business owner from Colchester
• Val Morris-Cook, Labour, logistics firm general manager and deputy leader of Thurrock Council, lives in Grays
• Andrew Smith, UK Independence Party, finance director from Epping
• Mick Thwaites, Independent, former City of London, Metropolitan and Essex police officer
• Robin Tilbrook, English Democrats, party chairman from Willingale, near Ongar
How to vote
• People must be registered to vote by Wednesday October 31. To check whether you are on the electoral register, visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk or call the district council on 01992 564000.
• The election will take place on Thursday November 15. Voters will receive a poll card telling them where their nearest polling station is. Stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.
• People can also apply to vote by post or by proxy by downloading an application form from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk or calling the district council.