back to article Police reject Tory plans for elected chiefs

The relationship between police and central government may be about to become a whole lot less harmonious, as senior police officers call for a fundamental review of policing in the UK and politicians look for a quick fix. Polite language was the order of the day as party spokesmen Chris Huhne (Lib Dem), Chris Grayling ( …


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  1. Paul_Murphy

    wot's a title?

    The politicians are responsible for making laws that govern the country - the police for enforcing them.

    The two houses of parliament are there to balance each other - one is elected and changes form on a regular basis, whereas the other is composed of people who are regarded as having contributed to the good of the country and are deemed to be working to the best interests of the country, not folding to whatever political pressure is paramount at the time.

    It's all a system of check and balances, and Ok it doesn't work perfectly all the time, but welcome to the real world. Anything that has people involved will be succeptable to human interests - the best that can be done is to ensure that there are non-interested parties performing an over-sight function, with the power to intervene if the situation calls for it,

    Why is it that the politicians feel that the police force would be better off having voted-in chief constables, rather than ones who have worked their way up through the ranks and know what the job entails?

    Silly politicians - leave the police to manage their own hierarchy, unless you would want the police to decide who can stand as an MP? no - thought not....


  2. Anonymous Coward


    "Sir Hugh sees this as a seriously bad idea, running the risk of introducing inappropriate US-style politicised police." Coming from the head of ACPO, (the political wing of the police force) which is up to it's neck in dodgy deals with the home office, that's pretty good.

    The sooner the police are put under direct control of the public, the better. Perhaps then we'd see police doing their main job, making the streets safe for everyone, rather than leaving the current power vacuum, where the streets are owned by whoever can be bothered to throw their weight around. Instead we get a load of coppers pissing about with computers, saying they're very busy you know. Except just before Xmas when Sheffield was treated to operation Xmas overtime, when 300 police spent the evening carting people off the streets in order to find 1 (one) penknife in the glove compartment of some kids car. cf the Manchester 'lock down'.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Are you sure about that?

      Considering the way that politicians are always happy to invoke popularist policies to drum up support and considering the way that shite-hawks such as the BNP work then the idea of voting in police chiefs looks a bit iffy.

      Would we end up with ( as so often happens elsewhere) a vast difference in policing methods which are alll based on which ever way the local head cop votes?

      The police should never be under the direct contol of the public as the public do not have a common voice, tend to rely on what they mistakenly call 'common sense' and are always happy to jump on a passing bandwagon.

      We'd end up with police chiefs telling us that thier decisions were based on conversations with god and that there's nothing anyone else can say about the matter as god is the ultimate policeman.

      Huge fail

      1. asiaseen

        decisions were based on conversations with god

        And who was that Chief Constable of Manchester who did just that?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "The two houses of parliament are there to balance each other - one is elected and changes form on a regular basis, whereas the other is composed of people who are regarded as having contributed to the good of the country and are deemed to be working to the best interests of the country, not folding to whatever political pressure is paramount at the time."

      What planet are you from exactly? Most active members of the upper house are there because of their service to a particular political party, not the country. The Lords were always there because the establishment did not believe that an elected house could be trusted to do the right thing. They remain in place, even though Labour long promised to abolish it, because each successive government wants a backstop and makes sure the house is packed with it's own members for important debates. However fear of the upper house blocking their own legislation has meant that the government changed the law in order to allow them to force legislation through should the Lords block it. There is absolutely no need for the Lords.

      There is a simple argument in favour if an elected "chief of police" and that is one that you should support, if your truly believe your own initial argument. Each police force is run by a police authority and elected chief plod could act as a foil to that authority. A useful alternative would be that we actually elect the police authority.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Worked their way up through the ranks???

      Worked their way up through the Lodge, more likely...

  3. Paul 4

    Oh good lord

    Please lest not get MORE like the US, where the police do stupid things because of stupid people. Want to protest in Surrey? Forget it. To many upset middle aged middle class politicaly powerfull people. Get your car stolen in Bath? Forget it. Antisocial kids is what won the ellection. etc etc.

  4. Gordon is not a Moron

    We need elected police chiefs in the same ducks need powerboats

    Because what we really to instill public confidence in the police is 2 guys fighting it out, each one trying to be more the right of Genghis Khan than the other, all in the name of public saftey

  5. Mycho Silver badge

    Well of course.

    The police have never liked public accountability have they?

    Imagine what might happen if a candidate turned out to be pro-photographer.

  6. Ben Liddicott

    As opposed to the UK-Style, ACPO centrally enforced politicisation we love so much?

    "The source of greatest controversy is likely to lie in Conservative plans for the direct election of police chiefs. Sir Hugh sees this as a seriously bad idea, running the risk of introducing inappropriate US-style politicised police."

    As opposed to the UK-Style, ACPO centrally enforced politicisation we love so much?

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    <choke> I find myself *agreeing* with the head of ACPO

    The UK govt seems to do a defense review about every 5-10 years. Hard to believe the last one was 48 years ago. To put this in perspective.

    That year's fashion sensation is the mini skirt. A 5 piece band called the Beatles has got a gig in Germany (but almost no one has heard of them). The Prime Minister is Harry MacMillan and the president is John Kennedy.

    Party ministers and shadows played their party lines. I find *all* of them unimpressive. Very much the same old s"#t in the same old bucket.

    I'll suggest 2 things such a Royal Commission *might* consider. 1)With an estimated 70% of *all* UK prisoners inside on drug related offenses (not sure if that includes alcohol) what about a consistent approach across all prisons to cut down the number of addicts and encourage the ones in for dealing to look for other lines of work. 2)The role that unelected bodies of senior police offices which look remarkably like a trade union have on influencing and in some cases appearing to set government policy.

    I'll just recall Sir Humphrie's words that an RC is what you convene when you *don't* want to make a decision. But I'll hope for a better outcome.

    Not sure I can hold it down much longer. New keyboard here I come.

    1. dogged


      How about just recognizing that prohibition is a stupid idea, legalizing and regulating the drug trade - as Howard Marks says, there are three ways to distribute drugs; supermarkets, pubs or organized crime and every government seems to favour the last option - and then we can stop spending billions and reduce the prison population by 70%.

      Less crime, less laws, less police. Vote for me.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        err isnt most drug related crime to do with obtaining money to buy drugs, so how exactly would drug regulation work? It wouldnt make drugs free would it, so the addict would still need to steal to buy drugs. At least with the current drug policy its illegal and buying dodgy drugs forms part of the Darwin theory.

        Maybe the best policy would be regulation to cut in more rat poison in drugs to kill them off quicker, that would then get rid of the drug addict, reduce crime and also kill the drug market all at the same time... jobs a good'en

        1. dogged
          Thumb Up


          Regulation means clean supply, regular vendor activity and of course, price competition.

          It also means people don't shoot each other for the right to sell the stuff (which is probably a larger part of that 70%). And very few people get arrested nicking stereos to pay for cigarettes. For now. Until they ban those too.

          1. ElFatbob
            Thumb Down


            Decriminalisation of various drugs in Amsterdam still hasn't stopped the criminal organisations their from making a profit from drugs.

            All that happens is that you create a new market economy, with the Crims looking to undercut the 'legitimate' suppliers.

            There is a massive black market in (mostly fake) licensed medicines, bootleg alcohol is on the up (fake and knocked off) - what evidence do you have that bringing recreational drugs into the legal sphere will make the situation better?

            1. dogged

              Of course!

              "All that happens is that you create a new market economy, with the Crims looking to undercut the 'legitimate' suppliers"

              You're going to get that whenever the regulated price is artificially high. You'll also get crime as a means of raising funds for supply in that instance.

              However, it should be far cheaper to run a legal distribution service than an illegal one and these cost benefits, if not passed on to the consumer, will result in black markets undercutting the legal market. See also - outrageous taxation on and black markets in tobacco and alcohol in the UK.

              Of course, none of this prevents political or corporate greed. It just makes the results of said greed all too obvious.

        2. Elmer Phud Silver badge

          Avoiding rat poison

          Currently there is no directly related evidence that things like Ecstacy and Mephedrone actually kill people. There is evidence that many drug deaths are commonly linked to alcohol being mixed with other drugs but the lack of understanding and clamour to rush in and ban some drugs has lead to concern that as soon as they are made illegal the quaity drops, the prices quadruple and the real dangerous bastards begin putting in all sorts of crap to bulk things up.

          Giving the public a chance to elect senior police officers based on complete and happy ignorance can only increase - not decrease the supply of more rat poison. There is a need to look further than knee-jerk reactions before handing over power to tabloid-driven appointment of such powerful posts. It's bad enough with Murdoch's mighty organ being used by the major parties as a major election tool, the prospect of popularist votes leading the way the law is handled is frightening "There's been a robbery - get the posse together".

          The US model is not one to admire (unless you read Hunter Thompson's accounts of hanging out with the local Sherriff) we'd end up with a shed-load of Sarah Palins.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They certainly need more accountability

    At the moment, the police behave like an organised crime outfit with very little accountability and often getting away with some very suspect behaviour.

  9. Rogerborg

    Fact check

    Can you please be sure to refer to ACPO by its full name, ACPO Plc.? It's a commercial company.

    1. The Other Steve

      Fact fail detected, clue insertion required.

      "Can you please be sure to refer to ACPO by its full name"

      Which is "THE ASSOCIATION OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS OF ENGLAND, WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND" according to their companies house entry.

      It is not a "Plc", which is a company whose shares can be traded, it is a "Private company limited by guarantee", which is different.

      Technically this makes them a "Ltd" or more properly "Limited", but such an organisation is only required to use the "Limited" suffix if it distributes profits, which ACPO doesn't. This exemption is noted in the CH entry.

      Maybe your primary adjunct could do with assimilating some facts, eh ?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ACPO

    As described here:

  11. The Other Steve
    Thumb Up

    "US-style votes not popular with plod"

    Tough shit, it isn't up to them. Regardless of which side of the 'should we / shouldn't we' fence, ACPO's opinion is utterly irrelevant.

    You don't ask turkeys if they think Christmas is a good idea or not.

  12. Graham Marsden

    "The operational independence of Chief Constables."

    Whilst I agree that Chief Constables should not be elected because that would lead to "populist policing" with the Tabloid Media trying to set the policing agenda with such nonsense as Zero Tolerance (=Zero Common Sense) and Megan's/ Sarah's Law (in the UK the Police know where about 97% of all sex offenders are, in the US some estimates say that up to 33% of sex offenders have "disappeared) when 'Sir Hugh said any idea the police were under "political influence" could undermine democracy' he rather neglected to mention that the ACPO influences politics without being accountable to anyone.

  13. Andrew Taylor 1


    ACPO are quite willing to take part in politics so long as it doesn't involve the dirty work of actually campaigning or being deselected due to not keeping your word. There seems to be a strong waft of hypocracy there

  14. Is it me?

    Plod & Genghis Khan

    Any hierarchical organisation will tend to be right wing, it's not in their nature to be otherwise. ACPO has to be political, because it's there for the benefit of UK policing as seen by Chief Officers, who by the way, are not Police themselves, they are in fact Specials (In more ways than one you might think). Applies to CC, DCC and ACC, and above commander in the met I think. The police depend on politicians for their money, and thus have to play with politicians to ensure that appropriate funding is available.

    The idea that we have to elect a CC from a political party, fills me with horror, the US is I believe the only country stupid enough to do this.

    The way forward is actually, I think, to have smaller local forces, district/borough, to deal with local crime, and larger regional forces backed up by a national force. The stuff that annoys and frightens us most, tends to be the petty local crime, but the most damaging crime is national and international, and beyond the capabilities of local forces.

    Oh, the other thing is that an elected CC would have to be seriously vetted before he could even stand for election, unlike any other electable office. Here's a hint, the best organised crime bosses do not have any kind of criminal record, do you really want to run the risk of having one as a CC, because the human rights act meant he couldn't be stopped without compromising intelligence sources. That kind of person has no problem with terminating grasses on hearsay. Having ex-police officers as CCs does actually mean that they are not criminals, unfortunately it doesn't make them nice people.

    Don't forget politicians are not trust worthy, just because they are elected, just popular, even MPs don't get to see sensitive material if they are deemed to be a risk, remember the YES MINISTER where Jim Hacker is selected as the new PM.

  15. Chronigan

    Police Chiefs are elected in America?

    Not in Texas. Police chiefs are hired by the city council or mayors office (both elected), depending on how the municipal goverment is set up for that city. Sheriffs are elected. The Sheriff is the principal law enforcement officer within a county where the individual is elected. Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, traffic enforcement, courtroom security, warrant execution, inmate housing, patrol of unincorporated areas.

    Unlike municipal law-enforcement agencies, the Sheriff has jurisdiction in all areas of the county including cities.

  16. kain preacher Silver badge

    In the USA

    Most police chiefs are not elected . Its the sheriff that gets elected. The sheriff dept is responsible for the county jails, moving inmates between the jail and only provide law enforcement in areas that do not have city PD. Now what you guy in the UK might want is a civilian review board or civilian compliant board. Its civilians that investigate allegations of police misconduct . These boards are staffed with people that live in the area .

  17. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Politicised police......

    quel horreur!!

    I'm sure people would much rather have their current DNA-retaining, ASBO-issuing, paperwork-buried, can't-be-bothered-to-arrest-thieves-and-hoods, citizen-walking-past-a-protest-killing, NON-POLITICISED police force.....(excuse me, had to stifle some laughter there) that genuflects daily in the direction of whoever is sitting on the throne in the Home Office!!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Oh dear

    Maybe I slept too long last night and woke up in a parallel universe after traversing a wormhole in space-time continuum?

    There is an elected board for each police force which the senior officer of police force is expected to attend. Or there was bearing in mind a possible shift in said space-time continuum.

  19. Ascylto

    Elect 'em

    I say we should have elected rozzers.

    Actually, I think it's a bad idea but ANYTHING is better than what we've got ... rozzers wearing dayglo going around in twos (what are THEY afraid of) with stab vests, talking brooches, mobes, pepper and CS sprays, cuffs, Tazers and 'wellard' sunglasses. And STILL you can't find them.

    They talk glibly about 'intelligence-led' policing but don't seem to get the fact that REAL intelligence comes from the streets their cars proclaim to protect.

    Let's get even worse.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It really could get worse

    Elected police chiefs has to be close to the worst idea yet to cross the pond, guaranteed only to make them even more statistics and headline obsessed than they are currently - the incentive to get tough on anything that breathes would be irresistible.

    And think of who we'll end up with; a bunch of half witted soundbyte chasers who didn't have the brains to make it as an MP/elected Mayor and who additionally fancy a nice uniform and chauffeur to put a bit of polish on their enlarged sense of self importance. Councillors, MEPs....ugggh!

    Much as I moan about the police at every opportunity, I far prefer the idea of coppers that have actually done the job getting the top slot rather than those who are politically minded - Ian Blair's watch can hardly be called a roaring success. We're better off to fix what we have got (and it really needs fixing) than let the less functional members of our greedy and self-serving political parties get their fingers a layer deeper into public institutions. Our growing collection of unelected party loyal quangocrat leaders, obsessively pushing government agendas, are quite enough without more of the same with a dubious layer of supposedly 'democratic' legitimacy.

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    UK police forces have elected oversight *already*

    It's called IIRC the "Police Authority"for that force and (except in London where the Police come directly either under the Home Secretary or the Minister of Justice).

    AFAIK it is made up of local councilors. while it may have limited powers on operational matters I believe it can have a vote of no confidence in the CC and give them the boot.

    How vigorously they have pursued their brief however is another matter.

  22. Sam Therapy

    Support your local bobby

    From the gallows, preferably.

    Biggest difference between the Police and other criminals is criminals don't usually go around in uniforms.

    Bitter, who, me?

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