Top police officers may go to court over reforms

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The Independent Online

Britain's most senior police officers are considering challenging the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, in the courts over his plans to give himself the power to sack badly performing chief constables.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) is consulting its lawyers in what could be itsfirst open clash with Mr Blunkett over his reforms. The association expressed its concern yesterday over the "centralising tendency" of the Home Secretary.

The backlash came on the day Mr Blunkett held a conference at which he criticised police chiefs for failing to adopt a more "can-do" and "inspiring" approach to crime fighting.

In an apparent swipe at police chiefs, the Home Office brought a former New York police commissioner to the conference in London to lecture them on bringing down crime.

Under new powers contained in the Police Reform Bill published last week, the Home Secretary will be able to force a chief constable or commissioner to resign "in the interests of efficiency or effectiveness".

A spokesman for Acpo said: "We will be looking in detail with a legal view of the interpretation of the Home Secretary's powers in relation to removing poorly performing chief officers."

A senior police source added: "We are taking legal advice to see whether the Home Secretary is acting within his powers. If he isn't, we will have to consider what action to take next."

* The Home Secretary will announce plans today to recruit 250,000 volunteers over the age of 50 to do community work.