Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Sir Hugh is the best man, not a 'Yes' man

The war of words between police chiefs and senior politicians in the aftermath of the English riots is essentially an argument about who is in charge of operational details at a time of danger and volatility.

Allowing for the spin that has been placed on various statements, the politicians seemed to claim credit for robustly intensifying the police tactics after the first night of rioting in Tottenham.

This has been firmly resisted by senior police figures, including Sir Hugh Orde, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Sir Hugh, who was well-known for his sturdy independence during his time as Chief Constable of the PSNI, has strongly defended the police. He said bluntly that the more robust response was not the result of political interference, but due to a change in tactics when more resources became available.

The Home Secretary Theresa May has waded further into the argument by claiming that the public wanted tough action, and that government ministers must ensure that the police are aware of what the public expects of them.

The row has been further exacerbated by the decision of the Prime Minister to call in an American police expert with experience of imposing zero tolerance in Los Angeles.

Hugh Orde has reflected the unease of the police who resent the introduction of an outside expert. They may be over-sensitive about this, when they might consider welcoming sound advice from someone who could teach them something.

Nevertheless, Sir Hugh has shown courage yet again in speaking up for his colleagues. In doing so he may have blown his chances of being appointed as the next Metropolitan Commissioner.

If David Cameron and his colleagues want a 'Yes' man they may not choose Orde, but if they want a tough, independent-minded and eloquent senior officer who has shown his mettle in the fire of Northern Ireland and elsewhere, Sir Hugh has a strong claim to be the best person available to lead the Met in a crucial period of its history.

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