Stephenson: Met must retain political ‘independence’

By Liz Stephens

The Metropolitan Police must remain impartial and able to operate independent of political meddling, the country’s most senior police officer has said.

Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson drew a line in the sand yesterday and warned politicians to stop interfering in the day-to-day business of fighting crime.

Speaking at the Police Superintendents’ Association, Sir Paul said: “There must be an appropriate space between policing and politics.

“I’ve been brought up in my career on the inviolate principle of police operational independence. That principle has underpinned my career. It will continue to underpin my commissionership,” he said.

The Met commissioner said his comments were aimed at all parties but his speech comes just weeks after London mayor Boris Johnson’s deputy, Kit Malthouse, said that he and Mr Johnson had their “hands on the tiller” of the police force.

This claim was later downplayed by city hall but there is known to be tension between Mr Johnson’s office and the force after the mayor forced Sir Paul’s predecessor out of office last year.

However, the main political parties have called recently for greater accountability for police.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “The police are the servants and any police officer, however grand, would be wise not to forget it.”

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) will be holding fringe meetings at all the party conferences this year to reinforce its message to politicians about police reform proposals.

The reforms the police are said to be most concerned about are the Tories’ proposals to replace police authorities with directly elected commissioners.