Police and crime commissioners will take the "voice of the people" to forces across the country, Home Secretary Theresa May said ahead of the first elections for the positions this week.
Mrs May denied chief constables would find their operations compromised by the newly elected politicians, amid claims the commissioners would undermine the independence of the police.
Speaking ahead of the first elections for the commissioners on Thursday, she said they would have more of a democratic mandate than police authorities.
And she played down the significance of only 54 of the 192 candidates not being linked to a political party.
The Conservatives hoped the new commissioners would be independent of political parties but Labour are fielding a number of ex-MPs to lead forces across the UK.
But Mrs May said in London, where the mayor Boris Johnson had effectively been a commissioner with oversight of the Met, the changes had prompted more officers to be assigned to dealing with concerns about safety on late-night public transport.
Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr, she said: "The chief constables will retain their independence. They decide who they are going to arrest, who they are going to investigate. The police and crime commissioners set the strategic direction for the police.
"I don't think there will be a conflict. Just look at the example we have got because we have a police and crime commissioner in London. It is effectively the Mayor of London and his deputy who have been the police and crime commissioner.
"What we have seen with the mayor is that he has absolutely laid out in strategic terms and certain areas what he wanted to see being tackled - problems with late night transport - and that has happened.
"He has been able to do that and take the voice of the people to the police, but on the other hand champion the police as well."