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Cooper attacks police chiefs plan

Elected police commissioners risk politicising the service, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has warned.

Ministers believe the move will help focus officers' attentions on issues important to specific communities and boost democracy and accountability.

But Ms Cooper said the Government's flagship criminal justice plan for voters to choose who runs their local force would put too much power in one individual's hands and jeopardise a constabulary's neutrality.

She said: "From the challenge of riots to the problem of phone hacking, David Cameron has offered the same policing answer - US-style elected police and crime commissioners to take charge of our police.

"But far from being the remedy to the policing problems of recent months, elected police chiefs would make things worse. By giving them unprecedented political power over policing, the Government is ripping up important checks and balances and threatening political impartiality in the British police."

She claimed the cost of elected commissioners would be "well over £100 million - the equivalent of 3,000 police constables", and believed the plan was being pushed through despite cuts to police forces as the Government slashed its spending to eliminate the record budget deficit it inherited from Labour.

Ms Cooper said: "The public rightly don't believe that a few elected police chiefs will be better than thousands of police officers at cutting crime, so to make this a funding priority now shows how deeply out of touch on law and order the Government has become."

Her comments, in a piece she has written for The Guardian newspaper, came as MPs prepare for Monday's Commons debate on the Government's proposals.

She said: "Ministers claim these reforms will improve democracy, but in Britain we have long known a flourishing democracy needs impartial police, safeguards against concentrations and abuses of power, and support for the rule of law. Parliament needs to send a loud, strong signal to the Government and ministers need to U-turn before it is too late."

Unveiling the proposals last year, Home Secretary Theresa May said elected commissioners would mark a bold shift of power in policing. Mrs May said: "These new measures will place the public back at the heart of our drive to cut crime, giving them a say in how their local area is policed by electing a police and crime commissioner and strengthening the powers that police and councils need to tackle crime and disorder at a local level."


From Belfast Telegraph