Senior police accuse Howard

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL HOWARD, the embattled Home Secretary, will be confronted by senior police officers this week with the message that his policies are 'undermining the traditions of the British police'.

Only a week before he faces the potentially fraught law-and- order debate at the Conservative Party Conference, representatives of the Superintendents' Association will accuse the Home Office of threatening public trust in the police, endangering policing by consent and reducing the number of officers on the beat by 2,000.

On Wednesday, Chief Superintendent David Golding, the association's president, will deliver what colleagues describe as the most forthright criticism of the Home Office ever given by a senior officer. 'We must speak out,' said Chief Supt Golding yesterday. 'We cannot let this damage be perpetrated. We're not against change, but change must be an improvement not the creation of a lesser service.'

Chief Supt Golding will tell Mr Howard and the 170 delegates at the association's annual conference that a Whitehall review of police functions will undermine the fight against crime if policing functions are cut back to 'core functions'.

Ideas being considered by Home Office civil servants include allowing private companies or local authorities to patrol the streets and deal with traffic management.

Chief Supt Golding will warn that if the police are confined simply to dealing with crime, co-operation with the public will break down.

Echoing the beliefs of many chief constables, he will say that the police job is to provide a range of services which have nothing to do with crime.

Mr Howard will also be confronted with government figures showing that the number of vacancies in the police forces of England and Wales has doubled to 2,000 in the past year because of Home Office spending restrictions. Other delegates are expected to complain that the 27-point crime programme Mr Howard announced at last year's Tory Party conference has not come into effect. They will also call for tougher sentences for criminals who carry firearms.

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