A former head of the Metropolitan Police has warned that chief constables will face continual political pressure to change the way they run their forces because of radical new government reforms.
Lord Blair, who led the country’s largest force from 2005 to 2008, warned that senior officers will struggle to insist that tackling organised crime and forced marriage remain a priority when elected Police and Crime Commissioners start work in November.
The commissioners – who will have powers to hire and fire senior officers and to allocate budgets – are part of government plans to make the police more accountable. However Lord Blair warned that the changes will “endanger the long tradition of operational police independence”.
Candidates backed by the main political parties will have a significant advantage at the election. Lord Blair suggested in an article for the New Statesman that the commissioners will be elected on “tribal lines” and “seeking re-election, they will put continual pressure on the police to deal with matters of concern to their supporters, irrespective of where crime is occurring.”
He added: “How many times will a chief constable, with now almost no security of tenure, stand up to that pressure or insist on dealing with matters such as organised crime or forced marriage, about which the commissioners' electorates do not care?"
He also criticised the level of spending cuts being imposed on forces and accused ministers of encouraging a narrow focus on catching criminals rather than wider community engagement.