Police undermined by political pressure: Chakrabarti

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti will claim later today that the role of the police force has been continually undermined by political pressure.

Ms Chakrabarti will make the claims when she delivers the annual Police Foundation John Harris memorial lecture later today.

“As law and order has moved up the political agenda, so the pressures on the police service and its independence have increased,” Ms Chakrabarti is expected to say.

“Rarely does a day go by without a new political proposal for greater ‘accountability’ on the one hand, or a serving police officer advocating further powers on the other.

“Yet umpteen new criminal offences, police powers and other broad laws from parliament have been matched by government targets. Might it not be possible for professional police discretion and fundamental rights and freedoms to march hand in hand?”

The Liberty director is expected to go on to poke fun at ministers such as Harriet Harman who have been seen wearing bullet proof vests while visiting their constituencies.

“I can certainly sympathise with chief constables who might prefer the microphone to the truncheon and see why ministers love the feel of a bullet proof vest. I can only ask those with senior roles in policing and politics to beware the real dangers of continued constitutional cross-dressing.”

Ms Chakrabarti will call for a dramatic reduction in police targets set by Whitehall and a parliamentary examination of the role and constitutional function of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

She will also call for independent mechanisms to ensure good governance in polices and the setting of ethical guidelines for police officers who speak publicly on “matters of contested opinion rather than hard fact”.