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Minister 'trying to silence police'

Home Office Minister Nick Herbert has been accused of trying to silence the police after he criticised chief constables who speak out.

The Policing Minister said it was the quieter chief constables, "those who are not bursting out into the national media to give us the benefit of their latest opinion", who were getting on with the job of making efficient savings.

Rank-and-file officers said his comments were "appalling".

Mark Sweet, general secretary of the Lancashire Police Federation, said: "Nick seems to want to silence the more vocal chief constables from raising their genuine feedback to him of the impact of the cuts. I think that was an appalling statement and he'll be getting a letter from myself to say so."

Speaking earlier at a Government Knowledge conference on policing in central London, Mr Herbert said: "These are challenging reductions for sure, but they are manageable reductions. The thing that I am increasingly doing is noting the chief constables from forces who are delivering these savings, all requiring difficult decisions I accept, but delivering decisions in a way which actually is protecting the frontline service.

"These are often the quieter chief constables, those who are not bursting out into the national media to give us the benefit of their latest opinion, but actually are getting on with the job along with their workers. They show that it can be done."

Rob Garnham, chairman of the Association of Police Authorities, defended Mr Herbert, saying he was confident "that the minister would not wish his comments to be interpreted as an attempt to gag chief constables".

"Responsible chief constables will use all appropriate means to communicate with the communities they serve in order to build trust and confidence in local policing and police authorities are fully supportive of this engagement," he said.

Mr Herbert's comments came after Peter Lake, of Unison, said forces were "going backwards" as civilian staff in Northamptonshire Police and others were feeling the brunt of the cuts. Police officers who have served less than 30 years cannot be made redundant, but civilian police staff can.

"If we're seeing this effect you describe, I think we need to be asking real questions about the way in which the cuts are being borne," Mr Herbert said. "I continue to maintain that we must guard against 'reverse civilianisation'."

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