Conservatives propose local police commissioners

Conservative leader, Michael Howard, has announced plans to introduce local police commissioners, as part of the party's law and order policy.

Mr Howard unveiled plans to replace "remote and unaccountable" police authorities across England and Wales, with directly elected local police commissioners.

Speaking in Manchester, where he was hosting the first weekly meeting of the Shadow Cabinet outside London, Mr Howard said that the new scheme would give people more of a say in the running of their local police force and also make Chief Constables more accountable.

The Conservative leader said that the police commissioners would assume the same roles currently fulfilled by police authorities, handling such tasks as producing strategies; approving budgets; appointing Chief Constables and their deputies; and consulting with local communities on policing issues.

Mr Howard said that "a wall of bureaucracy and political correctness" was dividing the public and the police. He said: "In one sense, the police today are more formally accountable than they have ever been. The trouble is they are accountable to the wrong people: quangos and bureaucrats - not to local communities. That's why we want a police commissioner, a visible, elected person to take over the responsibilities of the police authorities."

The Conservative leader added: "Police commissioners will reflect the concerns of the people who elect them. They will be able to put police power behind the public's priorities – tackling crime and disorder, vandalism, rowdiness, thuggery. The rights of the community need to be centre stage and the way to do that is to make those rights central to the democratic mandate of an elected police commissioner."

Mr Howard declared that the scheme would "restore confidence" in the police. However, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, Mark Oaten, said that it was a "dangerous idea", which could lead to extreme groups running local policing.

He said: "It could create conflict between chief constables and elected officials leading to a breakdown of effective community policing.

"The Tories are right to point out that local people have too little control over policing. But a far better system would be for already elected councillors to draw up a Minimum Policing Guarantee with a chief constable rather than just adding another tier of bureaucracy."


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