The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall has exclusively talked about the negative press she has recently received, at a meet and greet held for the public at a Tesco Extra in Pool.
Alison Hernandez was elected as PCC for the area with a population of 1.7 million, in May this year and she spoke about the challenges she has faced in her role.
“Considering I cover Devon Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I’ve found my role really challenging in terms of getting out and meeting people. It’s one of the reasons we do these meet your PCC sessions in places like Tesco or any supermarket that might have me so we can actually get in front of as many people as possible.
“I will try and spend as much of my time as possible out and about so I can understand what the impact is, so that I can take that back to the organisation to talk through with the chief constable to find out how that might affect our policing. About 80% of my diary time is out in the public domain.”
Mark Tyler Communications and Engagement Officer for Ms Hernandez explained the role as somebody who is in charge of “connecting people, the public, with the police. There was a feeling that there was a bit of a disconnect so this role is all about doing that”.
There is an ongoing investigation conducted by the West Mercia Police, into expense allegations that involve Ms Hernandez when she was an election agent in 2015 for Conservative MP Kevin Foster.
Despite the allegations coming out before Ms Hernandez was elected, it has not interfered with her carrying out her role as PCC.
Ms Hernandez spoke of how the negative media publicity has affected her: “It was like a baptism of fire. I’m not nationally media trained, I’ve never worked with channel 4 news before trying to doorstep me at my home.
“It’s really important for me to be accessible and approachable. I don’t want people to think I’m shying away from them. There’s somebody here who is trying to ensure that they get the policing they need to keep them safe.”
The investigation is expected to be cleared up within the next month, with November being the estimated time frame. Even though the investigation is still active, Ms Hernandez has not had problems working with any partners, such as the council or the probation service and she expressed that she has “really good positive working relationships”.
She said: “This negative publicity has been a very helpful process because it’s made me approachable, it means that people will ask for help. It’s got to the point actually where I’m not seeing it as a bad thing. When I’ve gone out in the public domain I’ve had a lot of people come and say I feel sorry for you, and I’ve never felt more loved in my life.
“They certainly know I’m here now so I’ve really got to show my stuff and get some good things done whilst I’m elected and get people to realise the value of this role.”
Ms Hernandez will be able to stand for a second term as PCC if she is reselected as the conservative candidate by her party.