POLICE and Crime Commissioner (PCC) isn’t the catchiest title that an elected official can have. It is though one of the most important roles which now exists in public life.

There are 41 of them in England and Wales, all of whom have responsibility for overseeing the police in their area and ensuring they do their job well.

The position was created in 2012, replacing the old system of police authorities.

It would be fair to say that there wasn’t much interest in the first election to the roll. In Cumbria just 64,268 people voted from a possible electorate of 392,285 possible voters.

This represented a voter turnout of just 16.38 per cent, which made many question the legitimacy of the eventual winner, Conservative Richard Rhodes.

It is expected though that this year’s poll will not go the same way and that there will be much more interest in the role. In addition, Mr Rhodes will step down and voters will have to decide on who the new man or woman to replace him should be.

The News & Star has met the people who will be counting on your vote.

Peter McCall The Conservative Party candidate at this year’s election is Peter McCall, who lives in Hesket Newmarket and grew up in Wigton.

He is a former Colonel in the British Army and retired from his service early to be able to stand for PCC. Mr McCall believes his experience in the military, where he was involved in several high-profile operations, would help him be an effective PCC.

He says: “This time last year I was in Sierra Leone running the ebola response and back in 2001 I was working on foot and mouth here in the county so I have done a bit of high-profile stuff.”

Mr McCall also believes strongly that the position is a good thing.

“I am really committed to the role because I do think that having one totally accountable person rather then a committee is a good thing. I am a great believer in a committee of one to get things done.”

Mr McCall is also well aware of what he would focus his immediate attention on.

“The first priority has got to be on securing a fair funding deal,” he says, adding that he has spoken to both Prime Minister David Cameron and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, about this issue.

He also thinks there is a need to look at the bigger picture with the blue light services in Cumbria and see how costs can be managed.

Mr McCall adds: “Fighting crime and keeping Cumbria safe is about team work.”

He is also not scared of the huge responsibilities which come with the job. “In my last job I looked after the careers of 20,000 people,” he says.

“I would hope that the public will look at who is best qualified for the job.”

Loraine Birchall Lorraine Birchall, from Ulverston, is the Liberal Democrat candidate for PCC. She is a web and management consultant. She describes herself as “from a police and armed forces family” with several of her relatives having served with the special constables.

Mrs Birchall is very clear about what she wants to see happen in the role.

She says: “I have got a number of priorities and the main thing people want is more visible policing.”

Expanding on this, Mrs Birchall explains that this would mean more officers on the beat and getting a good knowledge of the local communities which they are serving.

“I also like restorative justice, where people meet the victims of their crimes,” she says. “It can give closure.”

The role of Police and Crime Commissioner is seen as quite demanding because of a combination of the amount of travel required in the role and the number of meetings the individual is required to attend.

She points though that this will be just an extension to the way she lives her current life. Mrs Birchall is a board member of South Lakes Housing and serves on the development and finance committee and the tenants committee. She is also a member of Friends of X112 a group which raises funds to support and expand rural bus services.

In addition, she is also a parish councillor. “I already work about 60 hours a week,” she says.

She also has a radical idea to make sure that the county receives all the financial support it needs from the Government.

“I think we need a Barnett Formula (which guarantees a certain income to Scotland from Westminster) for rural areas like Cumbria.”

Mary Robinson Mary Robinson is standing as an independent candidate. She is currently the Cumbria County Council member for Alston and also stood as an independent candidate in the 2012 contest.

Taking a multi-agency approach – which would see the police work with as many other organisations as possible – is something she sees as a key priority.

“It is really important to me. The police cannot do this job on their own,” she says.

“Beyond that, I am passionate about getting services for residents.”

She added: “It is hard for the police when we are in a time of cuts.”

Mrs Robinson also wants to make sure that attention is focussed on helping those with disabilities to feel secure.

“It is important that everybody feels safe and secure in their own communities and there are people with disabilities who feel they cannot go out at night. It was the case three and a half years ago (when the last PCC election took place) and it is still the case now.”

The county has seen a reduction in anti-social behaviour in the last few year and Mrs Robinson wants to see the same happen in other kinds of crime.

“Children are affected by drugs and alcohol and it is important we get specialists in with their training,” she says.

“We want to keep them out of the criminal justice system.”

She also points out that her current roles dictate that she attends a lot of meetings each week and is well-used to the need to be organised and balance a heavy workload.

Reg Watson Reg Watson is the Labour candidate. He has been a county councillor since 1981 and lives in Carlisle. He was chairman of the old Cumbria Police Authority from 1989-2009 – a role similar to that of the PCC – and received an OBE for his contribution to policing.

Mr Watson says: “I was asked by the party to stand and I could not see a good reason not to try. I believe I have the necessary skills and I have done it before so I can do it again.”

He did not support the creation of PCCs and did not think the role would survive. Now it is here to stay though he wants to take on its challenges.

“Some people think you can just order people to do things but it is not about ordering, it is about talking to people.”

He adds that the priorities of policing are always constant and he would like to see the force tackle youth anti-social behaviour and deal well with child sexual exploitation.

“A police officer is just a citizen in uniform.” Mr Watson also says he has served on many committees through his work on the county council and is used to the amount of travelling and attention he would have to cope with as PCC.

He also feels there is a need for better leadership in the role and to improve morale among officers.

Oksana Walker Ukip have yet to select their candidate but have narrowed their shortlist to two candidates. These are Oksana Walker, from Rydal and Michael Pye, who lives in Cockermouth.

Mrs Walker is originally from Ukraine and has been in Britain for more than a decade. She has lived in Cumbria for four years. 

In 1992 she found herself living near the border with Chechnya and saw the effect the integration of refugees into the area had.

She feels this first-hand knowledge of how different communities integrate can be put to good use in the role. She is also prepared for the heavy workload.

“I have been bringing up seven children, so trust me I can cope,” she says.

Michael Pye Mr Pye comes from a background of working in the oil industry.

He says: “I think my priority is the same as everyone else’s. Are we safe and are there enough police officers to keep our communities safe?”

He adds though: “The challenges of the job are bigger than I thought they would be.”

The Green Party meanwhile will not be fielding a candidate at this election.

Official nomination forms have to be submitted by April 7 at 4pm and the election for PCC will be held on May 5. For more information visit www.cumbria-pcc.gov.uk .