Police chiefs threaten to quit over Tory plans to put them under orders of local mayors

Police chiefs may quit if a Tory government presses ahead with plans to put forces under the control of local commissioners, the senior officers' leader warned today.

Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said chief constables would resist any moves to introduce 'political influence' into the police.

He said it was 'absolutely critical' that they were operationally independent in terms of how they delivered policing in their areas.

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Sir Hugh Orde says political influence cannot be introduced into the police

The Tories are committed to directly-elected commissioners with wide powers to hire and fire chief constables, set budgets and decide policing priorities.

But Sir Hugh, the ex-chief constable for Northern Ireland who became Acpo president earlier this year, insisted police should never be under the influence of politics.

'Operation independence is absolutely critical,' he said. 'Even the perception that the police service of this country - a British style of policing which is so important - is under any political influence, I think that suggests you cannot argue that you are a proper democratic society. It's as simple and as stark as that.

'We should not be influenced by anyone who has any potential or suggestion for a political basis.'

Sir Hugh Orde

Warning: Sir Hugh says police chiefs will quit if plans are forced through

Sir Hugh warned that some chief officers could resign rather than accept the Conservative plans.

'I would not be surprised to see chief officers not want to be part of a system where they can be told how to deliver policing,' he said.

Asked if he would quit, he said: 'I don't, sadly, have a police service anymore. But if I was a chief officer and was subject to direct political control, I absolutely would.'

His intervention comes in the wake of the resignation of the Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair after he came under pressure from London Mayor Boris Johnson to quit.

He insisted that chief constables fully understood the need to be held accountable, he warned that direct local political control would distort policing priorities.

'If one just thinks about that for a moment, the agenda is local policing,' Sir Hugh said.

'There will be no votes in protecting people from terrorism, from organised crime and from serial rapists that cross the country because they won't be local and they won't get you votes.

'That's part of the reason why the sensible debate around accountability and around force structure is missing currently.'

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