THE candidates fighting it out for the role of Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner took part in a Question Time-style event tonight in a bid to win over the public.

All four attended the hustings at Teesside University with little more than a week to go to the election.

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Organised by Safe in Tees Valley, Labour’s Barry Coppinger, the Green Party’s Joe Michna, Conservative Ken Lupton and Independent Sultan Alam all took to the stage at the event to answer submitted questions from the public.

Speaking of the importance of neighbourhood policing, Mr Alam, who is a former Cleveland Police officer, said: “The important thing that I’m all about is making sure we keep as many officers as possible and get them on the streets. It is very important that the public have confidence in the police.”

Mr Alam, who spent 17 years fighting for justice after being wrongly imprisoned while working for the force, said he would have no problem holding a chief constable to account as he had done it before.

Green candidate Joe Michna, who is a Middlesbrough councillor and manager of Hartlepool Citizens Advice Bureau, said he would continue developing neighbourhood policing.

He said: “It is a success story and in local policing if you talk and discuss with local residents about what they feel are local priorities you will be able to build on neighbourhood policing to help people feel more secure.”

Conservative candidate, Mr Lupton, said he would restore morale in officers and public confidence by working closely with a new chief constable to get the message across that the force was doing a good job.

He said: “When we talk about credibility, the year before last the force had the highest level of public confidence in the country, but that fell last year.

"The temporary chief constable has made some changes so it’s about getting the message out that they are doing a good job and things are improving.”

Labour’s Barry Coppinger, who served on Cleveland Police Authority until earlier this year, believes his experience of the police service would prove invaluable.

He said: “This is a really challenging area to live in and this will be a really challenging job to do.

"I’m proud of my work with the police authority because most people involved have work hard and done nothing wrong.”

He told the audience that he played a key part in starting neighbourhood policing while he was on the authority and said he would work hard to ensure it stayed at the heart of the force’s ethos.

The election takes place on Thursday, November 15.