Why Chief Constables must maintain their operational independence

One reason the Labour Party was initially against the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners was the concern that they would undermine the operational integrity of Chief Constables and politicise policing. That is why the Party was successful in ensuring there would be a protocol that ensures Chief Constables will maintain their independence.

A classic example of interference in operational policing was unearthed at the Leveson Inquiry when Boris Johnson and  his office came under fire after his Deputy Mayor Kit Malthouse had complained to Scotland Yard on “several occasions” that it was devoting too many resources to the News of the World phone-hacking investigation. This was after Johnson had already claimed that  the original claims of widespread phone hacking were “a load of codswallop cooked up by the Labour party”. We now know just how monumentally wrong he was and how dangerous this interference can be. Chief Constables must have operational independence in preventing crime, catching criminals and bringing them to justice.

It is right and proper that Chief Constables and others who are commissioned to deliver crime reduction are held to account, as indeed Commissioners will be. In developing the Policing and Crime Plan Commissioners need to be the bridge between local communities and the police and other statutory agencies but having developed the Plan it is then the responsiblity of the Police and other agencies to deliver. That is why Commissioners need to fully understand the justice system and have the experience and knowledge necessary to be tough but fair and work with and not against those at the sharp end of delivery.

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