CORRUPTION is a possibility if plans for elected police commissioners are pushed through, it has been claimed.
An adviser to ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair is among the former North East police chiefs who have criticised the Coalition Government’s proposals.
Lord Brian Mackenzie of Framwellgate, a former Durham Chief Superintendent, said he had experience of elected police bosses when he was at the FBI Academy in Virginia, U.S.A.
“I found that bringing raw politics into this arena can lead to corruption,” he said during a debate on the issue in the House of Lords.
The Labour peer added: “High-level police corruption in the United States is very great compared with Britain.
“In my view, that is influenced by the politicisation of the police.”
Plans for directly-elected figures to oversee police forces were outlined in the last Queen’s Speech last year, as part of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.
The Government says the role will ensure forces meet local rather than Whitehall targets, and could oversee other elements of crime fighting locally, including the Criminal Justice Board.
During the debate in the Lords, ex-Northumbria chief constable John Stevens raised concerns about how one person could be responsible for such a diverse area as that covered by Northumbria Police.
“What worries me about one model fitting all is a problem that relates to Northumbria in particular.
“Northumberland, to the north, is a county on its own, with the boroughs that we all know so well – Newcastle and Sunderland.
“For one person to try to deal with the complexity of that would be extraordinary.”
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington added: “If we get it wrong, we will never sleep soundly in our beds in the future.”
North East Liberal Democrat peer John Shipley claimed the new arrangements would be more costly.
He said: “I believe that it is right we should now be seeking to pilot this Bill and not simply to impose it from 2012, lock, stock and barrel.”
Home Office Minister Pauline Neville-Jones said: “I accept that there are ways in which they can be improved. The core of the Bill, however, is about accountability.
“It is not about operational policing matters. The Bill will support operational matters and will not, as has been suggested, somehow adversely affect them.”