Outcry over May’s police comments

Peter Thompson, chairman of Durham Police Authority.
Peter Thompson, chairman of Durham Police Authority.
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POLICE chiefs have hit out at the Home Secretary’s comments over their future and called for officers to remain at the forefront of tackling crime.

Peter Thompson, chairman of Durham Police Authority (DPA), has voiced his concerns after Theresa May championed London Mayor Boris Johnson and the capital’s acting commissioner for how they dealt with last week’s riots.

He said: “I am appalled at the Home Secretary’s notion that politicians should be the face of operational policing.

“The public want the police to police the streets, not politicians.”

Ms May this week said there is a lesson to be learnt from the unrest, which affected London and other major cities.

The comments came as plans for elected police commissioners, which would replace police authorities, move forward.

She said: “In London, the mayor was on the streets of his city, working with the acting commissioner and representing Londoners to central government.

“The contrast with unaccountable, unelected and invisible police authority chairmen in other parts of the country could not have been clearer.”

Mr Thompson said: “This assertion is far from truth.

“My colleagues from police authorities up and down the country were actively involved in the process at the right strategic level.

“Just because police authority chairmen were not photographed on the streets does not indicate inactivity behind the scenes.

“On the contrary, we were involved throughout.

“I was supporting the Chief Constable in his decision to release police officers to the Met under mutual aid prior to the return of the Home Secretary and the Mayor of London from holiday.”

Ms May has also reaffirmed plans to cut policing budgets, stating forces need to take their share of the burden.

DPA has said the rolling out of the U.S. policing model of directly-elected commissioners next May would cost £100million or more to the public purse.

Mr Thompson added: “The cost of holding the election in County Durham and Darlington next year will just fall short of a million pounds.

“As a police authority covering the constabulary area, we engage extensively with our communities.

“Just last week through the press, we invited the general public to attend an event on the introduction of a Police and Crime Commissioner to County Durham and Darlington.

“So far, we have received one response from a member of the public.

“If this represents the public appetite for change, the Government has got a long way to go in justifying the significant costs and implications to British policing of what is expected to be a political appointment and interference.”

Northumbria Police Authority has previously said it is “extremely disappointed” with the proposals and had serious concerns that directly elected police commissioners were seen as the answer to giving people an increased influence over the service.

The comments were made in its submission to the Home Affairs select committee which looked in to the issue as the Government formed the plans.