As recently as November last year, Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO threatened to resign, along with other Chief Constables if the Tory Prposals for elected commissioners became law.
Asked whether he would himself quit should the Tories come to power and enforce the move, Sir Hugh said: “I think I would be deeply uncomfortable. I would leave if the principles of British policing were compromised.”
Britain's new coalition government has promised radical reform of the police, including the introduction of directly elected police commissioners. Sir Hugh Orde thinks it is a bad idea and has warned it will lead to police chiefs resigning. If he is so opposed to one of the central policing ideas of the new government, can, indeed should he stay in his job?If he and other disaffected Chiefs really did resign, it would save the government the trouble of sacking them.
Now the new Government is in power, surprise surprise, Sir Hugh, the man so apparently opposed to political influence, is displaying that most political of traits, saying one thing and doing another.Speaking ahead of the association’s conference in Manchester next week, Sir Hugh said "There is still little clarity on how the proposals will work in practice. Obviously we have now moved from manifesto commitments to a coalition government agenda, and from having one directly elected individual to several of them. But I think the plea to ministers at the conference will be to give us more flesh on the bones. It is important at the conference next week that we start the debate,” he said. “We have to ask how we can be more efficient, what we need and what can go first.”
Make your mind up Sir Hugh, you can't have it both ways. You either vociferously oppose the proposals and resign, or put up and shut up, and look for ways to make it work for the good of the public and the service.
The signs suggest he's getting a little nervous that any police reforms may have an adverse effect on his empire building.
When Sir Hugh said that police chiefs would resign if the Conservatives pushed on with their proposal for elected police commissioners, we couldn't help wondering if he was speaking for all his colleagues on this, or whether he wass expressing a strong personal view?
Sir Hugh argued that, “We should not be influenced by anyone who has any potential or suggestion for a political basis.”
Curious then that he has recently become so heavily involved in politics himself. One of the reasons for electing local police commissioners is to free the police from the “political influence” that they are currently labouring under: the culture of upward-looking accountability to central government, rather than to the local people they are there to serve.
Ah, the tenacity with which the unelected defend their privileges. Under a labour administration the Police chiefs were digging in every bit as stubbornly as Eurocrats, and for the same reason: they hate the idea of having to answer to the rest of us.
Sir Hugh has said he wants the police to have operational independence. So does everyone else. We want democratic control over police budgets and priorities. Should coppers spend their money on speed cameras or find resources for more foot patrols? Should they turn a blind eye to the possession of small amounts of cannabis? Should they let shoplifters off with a warning? These are questions in which local people have a legitimate interest. No one, as we suspect Sir Hugh knows perfectly well, is suggesting that elected representatives should be empowered to intervene in specific cases.
Sir Hugh, In an unbelievably patronising statement, said that voters couldn’t be trusted. He claimed that there are “no votes in protecting people from terrorism, from organised crime and from serial rapists that cross the country”. We wonder whether he really believes this, or whether his true concern is that voters might want the police to spend more time on protecting property and less on encouraging diversity.
Either way, our hunch is that, while Sir Hugh might have some support among the top brass – those ambitious rozzers who, during 13 years of Labour, were promoted because they seemed to believe that the primary purpose of the police was to promote equality – he is not especially representative of the broad mass of police officers, who joined up in order to be crime-fighters, not social workers or Labour activists.
As reported from these pages previously, Sir Hugh and ACPO have courted more than their their fair share of contraversy of late, with Westminster apartments paid for out of anti terrorism budgets, profligate spending, and the looming spectre of Chief Officers' bonus paymentsa to name a few.
If Sir Hugh offers to resign, it should be politely accepted by theHome Secretary. The same goes for any other Chief Constable who believes that the public cannot be trusted to have a say in how they behave. The sooner we clear the decks of the inveterate quangocrats and bureacrats, the better for everyone and the sooner we can get some common sense decisions made by common sense coppers who are in touch with the frontline and what the public really want from their police service.