A POLICE chief has warned of the potential danger for any newly-elected police commissioner wholly focusing on local issues to the detriment of important backroom services concerning dangerous offenders.

Cleveland Police’s temporary chief constable Jacqui Cheer said that any decision to change operational roles, when the commissioners come into power in November, will ultimately rest at their feet.

She was speaking at a Police and Crime Commissioners conference at the force’s headquarters in Middlesbrough, attended by more 100 people involved in crime and justice services across the force area.

Mrs Cheer said: “The fear is they (Police Commissioners) will focus solely on local issues, issues such as criminal damage and anti-social behaviour and take resources away from areas such as child protection, community protection, people trafficking and computer-based crime, services that are not clearly visible to the public.

“If anything does happen as a result they will be held accountable for their actions. It is something that chief constables have always been aware of and sometimes keeps you awake at night.”

The experienced officer, who led the investigation into the murders of five women in the Ipswich area in 2006, has taken over the force while the probe into suspended chief constable Sean Price continues.

The conference, organised by Cleveland Police Authority, also heard from Judith Million, the deputy director of drugs, alcohol and community safety at the Home Office, Hazel Willoughby, the director of public protection at Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, and Stuart Drummond, the chairman of the police authority.

The Government is still working on the details of the scheme for elected commissioners.

Mrs Willoughby said that most of the focus had been on the policing side of the role, with very little information available about the impact the position would have on the delivery of services such as probation and Victim Support.

She said: “It is clear that the thinking about police and crime commissioners has been focused primarily on police and police authority issues, but if the commissioner’s tasks are three fold – victims of crime, to hold the chief constable to account and working in partnership to reduce crime – the information out there doesn’t reflect the importance of these elements of partnership work.”

The conference was the first in a series of events to develop protocols for a smooth handover of powers.

At the moment, no one has declared an interest in the post for the Cleveland force.