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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Super cop's town hall ambitions
Middlesbrough and Mallon graphic
As New Yorkers call for Rudolph Giuliani, the inventor of zero tolerance policing, to stay on as mayor, one of his admirers in Britain is hoping to "do a Giuliani" on Teesside. But as BBC News Online's Chris Summers found out, Ray Mallon has several obstacles to cross first.

On 18 October voters in Middlesbrough will be given the opportunity to decide whether or not they want a directly elected mayor.

People don't want politicians to tow this or that party's policies. They just want them to do what is right.

Ray Mallon
The ballot is one of six being held in various parts of the country on that date, the latest in a series of exercises designed as part of the Local Government Act 2000 to improve local democracy.

It is part of the process which gave Wales and Scotland devolution and gave London its first directly elected mayor, Ken Livingstone.

Of the five ballots already held, two went in favour of directly elected mayors.

'Zero tolerance' pioneer

Most interest on 18 October will focus on Middlesbrough, where a former policeman is waiting in the wings hoping to become the town's first directly elected mayor.

Detective Superintendent Ray Mallon shot to fame in early 1997 when he pioneered "zero tolerance policing" in the UK.

Mr Giuliani
Mr Mallon is an admirer of Rudolph Giuliani
The policy was similar to methods used in New York, and held responsible by Mr Giuliani for a big fall in crime.

It involved clamping down on even minor crimes such as graffiti-spraying, dropping litter and vandalism.

The idea, based on the American "broken windows" theory, is that by being intolerant of such behaviour the police prevent a spiral of decay and despair which drives "respectable" people away.

With a General Election looming and law and order a big issue, Tony Blair came to Middlesbrough and was photographed with Mr Mallon, who promised to cut crime by 20% within 18 months.

Towns which have already voted
Berwick: NO
Cheltenham: NO
Gloucester: NO
Watford: YES
Doncaster: YES
Dubbed "Robocop" by the tabloids, he was the golden boy of Cleveland Police.

But in December 1997 he was suddenly suspended from duty.

Cleveland Police launched Operation Lancet to look into allegations that Mr Mallon and his team were using illegal or unacceptable methods to improve clear-up rates.

It was alleged that criminals were offered inducements in an attempt to get them to admit to unsolved crimes and that drugs were handed over in exchange for information.

But the charges were dropped in June last year and Mr Mallon was fully exonerated.

Charges against 50 Cleveland officers were also dropped in February this year.

Mr Mallon, 46, still faces 14 disciplinary charges, including neglect of duty, discredited conduct, misconduct, falsehood and prevarication.

Upcoming referendums
Oct 4: Kirklees
Oct 11: Sunderland
Oct 18: Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Sedgefield, North Tyneside, Brighton & Hove, Lewisham
On 15 October, three days before the referendum, he is set to appear before a disciplinary hearing at Cleveland Police headquarters.

Last week the police authority said it could not pay Mr Mallon's 120,000 legal aid bill.

Mr Mallon resigned from the force in August in order to run in the mayoral race, but Chief Constable Barry Shaw refused to accept his resignation.

As a police officer he is not allowed to campaign politically.

But he has been holding several public meetings and says they are not political because he is not supporting any political party.

Mr Mallon says the disciplinary hearing is pointless and adds: "They can't take my police pension away. The worse they can do is sack me, and I've already resigned. It's futile."

He told BBC News Online he believed voters wanted a new style of politics: "People don't want politicians to tow this or that party's policies. They just want them to do what is right."

'The enemy is apathy'

Chris Lloyd, political editor of the Northern Echo newspaper, says Mr Mallon's biggest enemy is apathy.

In neighbouring Sedgefield only 2% responded to a questionnaire about whether they wanted a directly elected mayor.

Mr Lloyd said: "The high profile of an interesting and charismatic figure like Mallon will make a difference in Middlesbrough but he'll still be up against it."

If two men and a dog turn up and vote for a mayor, and one man and a dog vote against, then we will be having a mayor.

Mike Clarke, Middlesbrough Council
Middlesbrough Council spokesman Mike Clarke said: "There are 61,000 voters but there is no minimum turnout threshold so if two men and a dog turn up and vote for a mayor, and one man and a dog vote against, then we will be having a mayor."

If the referendum does go in favour of a directly elected mayor the question will be what ticket will Mr Mallon stand on.

Middlesbrough Council's Labour group Ken Walker denied rumours that there was personal animosity between him and Mr Mallon.

He said: "I've known him for a number of years and I've got nothing personal against him.

"At the moment we genuinely haven't got anyone in mind to be the Labour candidate," said Mr Walker, who pointed out that he had already ruled himself out of the running.

Ray Mallon
Ray Mallon now wants to run Middlesbrough
But he said: "What Mr Giuliani has done to bring the community together after one of the most horrendous examples of inhumanity has been superb and that is the sort of individual I hope we will get to serve the people of Middlesbrough."

Mr Mallon said he had no vendetta against Cleveland Police and did not believe that an elected mayor should be in charge of the police authority.

He said he admired what Mr Giuliani had done for New York and said a Mayor of Middlesbrough needed a similar "wide vision" of how to improve the environment and increase prosperity on Teesside.

Tories sceptical

Geoff Harrison, secretary of Middlesbrough Conservative Association, said: "In a referendum we would vote No to an elected mayor.

"We are concerned that this is another step towards regionalised European government.

"As for Ray Mallon, people are sceptical about whether he has the ability to play the role. You would need somebody with financial and business experience."

The Middlesbrough ballot is an entirely postal vote and the result will be announced on 19 October.

If it results in a yes vote, expect interesting times on Teesside.

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