Mike Rees smiles slightly when he’s asked if, as a former career Wiltshire police officer, he’s too close to the force to properly hold its bosses to account if he’s elected as Swindon and Wiltshire’s PCC

I used the analogy of retired footballers turned pundits being reluctant to criticise the players and managers they sued to work with.

He says: ”I’ve been asked whether I’m too ‘pro-police’ to be the PCC.

“Look, I know nothing about cars. I if I bought one, I could ask, say, a dentist whether it was okay, or I could ask a qualified mechanic who might be able to say it sounds okay, but there are these problems.

“If I am elected then I will be able to get a good look under the bonnet to see what’s going on.”

As a 30-year officer Mr Rees is certainly pro-police, but he isn’t afraid to be blunt about those at the top of the organisation: “I don’t think the problem lies with the officers – but a lot of experience was allowed to go out of the door, too many people have been over-promoted, so there are inexperienced people as supervisors.

“And those at the top produce too much…”

There’s a pause and we both know the word he wants to use but can’t in a respectable news interview “...they put a lot of positive spin on things".

“But I don’t think people are feeling safer or thinking they’re getting a better service from the police here.”

The police and Crime Commissioner doesn’t run the police force, but does set priorities for the Chief Constable to work towards.

And as a retired copper in his mid-50s, Mr Rees clearly wants to see a return to what might be thought of as ‘good old-fashioned police work’.

He says: ”If you speak to senior officers, they’ll tell you how many times the police have met people at some events at the local library or something.

“I don’t really care about that – I want to know about how many crimes they‘ve solved.

“The job is the same as it ever was; the preservation of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime and keeping the King’s peace, as it is now.

“I want to see more effort and resource put back into investigation, the police need to get back to doing things well, the public needs to know that if they call or need to speak to someone, then someone will show up.”

Mr Rees stood in the PCC election in 2021 and came within less than 4,000 votes of winning the re-run poll, coming second to the Conservative Philip Wilkinson.

As in that election, he has been endorsed by former detective superintendent Steve Fulcher, the man who gained a confession from Swindon double murderer Christopher Halliwell.

In 2021 Mr Rees said he wanted to re-open investigations into Halliwell’s crimes, does he now?

Mr Rees says: “That’s something I’d have to talk to the families of his victims, Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden-Edwards, about.

“I certainly think there’s more to find and I certainly think Halliwell committed more crimes than we know about now – and it strays into operation, which is the Chief Constable's area as well, but I would have to talk to the families.”

Having been so forthright in his assessment of the Wiltshire force, does he think he could forge a relationship with the relatively new Chief Constable Catherine Roper to get the force to where he wants it to be?

He said: “The force is in special measures, and I don’t know when, or whether it will come out, if things are improving, as they say, I’d want to see the evidence.

“But I will work with the Chief, of course I will. It’s the only way to get things to improve.”

Other candidates standing in the May 2 election are the Conservative incumbent Philip Wilkinson, Alan Hagger standing for the Liberal Democrats and Labour’s Stanka Adamcova.