Elected police chiefs in two years, says May

The Home Secretary confirmed yesterday that directly elected police commissioners will take charge of police forces in England and Wales two years. Announcing what she called "the most radical reforms to policing in at least 50 years", Theresa May also announced the formation of a National Crime Agency.

The details, outlined in a consultation paper entitled Policing in the 21st Century: Re-connecting Police and the People, included the news that the National Police Improvement Agency would be phased out by 2012.

Mrs May told MPs that police reform was a priority of the new Government: "For too long the police have become disconnected from the communities they serve, they have been bogged down by bureaucracy and they have answered to distant politicians instead of to the people." The National Crime Agency will be created by 2013 and will take over responsibility for the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, border police, e-crime and fraud.

Mrs May said chief constables would retain operational independence. She dismissed fears that the BNP could take control of forces, pointing out that the party has never managed more than 15 per cent of the vote in any election. But shadow home secretary Alan Johnson said the cost of elected commissioners was estimated at £50m and labelled the proposal an "expensive diversion".