Candidate for force's top job sparks debate on Freemasons
ONE of the prospective candidates hoping to be voted in as the county's first police and crime commissioner has called on his rivals to declare if they are Freemasons.
UKIP's David Gale feels that the four other men who are currently vying for the commissioner role should make their membership of secret societies public to create "a spirit of openness and transparency."
And all four of the prospective candidates answered his challenge.
Mr Gale said he was not against Freemasonry but made the challenge to rivals for the £75,000-a-year role as he said he considered failure to make such a declaration to be "corrosive to the trust in public office."
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He said: "My position is that I feel it incumbent upon those seeking public office to declare such membership in a spirit of openness and transparency.
"Do not misinterpret this as me being in any way anti-Freemasonry.
"I am aware that its members contribute significantly to our communities but I do feel that a failure to make such a declaration is corrosive to the trust in public office."
Mr Gale, Conservative Simon Spencer, Labour's Alan Charles and independents Rod Hutton and Rob Lane have all expressed a desire to be named as commissioner.
The single elected person will replace the outgoing police authority and whoever the public vote in, when they go to the polls on November 15, will have powers such as setting the police budget and hiring and firing the Chief Constable.
Mr Spencer said he was not a Freemason but added: "I don't think membership of such a society is relevant in any way at all to the person who is voted in by the public."
Mr Charles also declared that he has never been a Freemason and he felt declaration was relevant. He said: "Any organisation I am a member of is fully open and transparent. I do feel membership of the secret society of Freemasons is relevant.
"The commissioner must be absolutely open and transparent in his/her work and that cannot be the case if he is a member of a secret society that by definition bans 50% of the population from membership because of their gender.
"I am aware that Freemasonry in the British police has been controversial in the past. However, I do believe some individuals are looking for something that isn't there."
Mr Lane said he was not a Freemason: "Unlike David Gale, I am concerned about Freemasonry in relation to the police and local politicians. When talking to victims of and witnesses to crime, and where individuals have been dissatisfied or perplexed by the police response, I have heard too often speculation about Freemasonry.
"Any doubts about integrity, accountability and transparency must be removed and I do not consider it acceptable that PCC candidates are Freemasons. Certainly, they must declare membership."
Mr Hutton also declared that he was not a member of the Freemasons.
He said: "If candidates are part of any organisation that has had previous issues and questionable relationships with the police service then they should be declared in the spirit of openness.
"Not making such an early declaration would create a distraction for the process for the electorate."