A COUNCILLOR is calling for a the process of selecting a police force's new chief constable to be "opened up".

Liberal Democrat Craig Martin says a "cross-party panel" should be involved when selecting the new candidate following the retirement Durham Constabulary's current chief, Mike Barton.

The process of hiring and firing a chief constable is usually the sole responsibility of the elected Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). In Durham it is Ron Hogg.

Cllr Martin said: "I'm calling on our Police and Crime Commissioner to open up the process and ensure a cross-party collaborative approach is taken in this crucial decision. With such a tiny mandate, elected with a mere 18 per cent of public involvement, they cannot rule like a dictator.

"The PCC must realise they need to bring the public with them on this decision rather than it being a selection, stitched up behind closed doors."

He added: "Mike Barton will be sorely missed from the helm of Durham Constabulary."

"The reason we've got the best constabulary in the country is down to Mike and the whole team's efforts. I've no doubt Mike's methods and policing philosophy will be carried on while he takes a well-deserved rest from years of service."

"But to get the best candidate that will continue Durham Constabulary's award-winning success, the process needs to involve multiple people from different political persuasions. In County Hall, there is an opposition Councillor that sits on interview panels for senior appointments. The PCC should follow this example of good practice to ensure we get the best possible candidate to deliver safer streets across County Durham and Darlington."