UK police chiefs demand freedom from unwarranted political pressure

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London, Oct.4 : Police chiefs in Britain are reported to have approached their superiors through the Association of Chief Police Officers, and told them to keep them free from "unwarranted political pressures".

The Times quoted Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, as saying that senior officers were extremely concerned that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair's sudden departure from Scotland Yard had "fundamentally altered the perception of policing independence". "We see dangers in allowing a drift away from the fine balance of interests between government, chief officers and police authorities. In our country the duty to preserve the impartiality of policing rests squarely with us all. Politics, policing and narrow vested interests make for a toxic mix," Jones warned

He added that police officers, like the judiciary, had a duty "to keep the Queen's peace, free from undue influence".

Sir Norman Bettison, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, who ruled himself out of the running to succeed Sir Ian Blair, echoed Jones's concerns.

"The dislodging of Ian Blair is a demonstration of political will. Along this road lies danger. I am, therefore, staying put," Bettison said. Sir Ian announced his resignation on Thursday one day after being asked to step down by Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London, who moved to oust him within hours of taking control of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Johnson's actions have been criticized by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, for politicizing the top policing job in the country. The recriminations threaten to mire the process of selecting a successor.

Johnson, who chairs his first meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority on Monday, has a formal role in the appointments process. However, law makes the final appointment of the commissioner through the office of the Home Secretary in a recommendation to the Queen.

With the appointment falling close to a general election, Smith may also feel that she has to consult Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary. That opens up the possibility of divisions within the Tories.

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