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UK police groups slam potential for political interference in new bill

[JURIST] Two UK law enforcement associations denounced parts of the pending Police and Justice Bill [parliamentary materials] on Tuesday and called on the House of Lords [official website] to amend it. In a press release [text], the Association of Chief Police Officers [group website] and the Association of Police Authorities [group website] said it would shift power to the Home Secretary, allowing him to direct local chief constables and to alter the membership and role of police authorities:

The Police and Justice Bill has much to commend it but contains some elements which cause us considerable concern and raise issues of significant constitutional importance. Effective policing is dependent on the consent and support of the public. This support is conditional on the demonstrable independence of policing from partisan political interests. It is essential that the local nature of policing is preserved, as it is here that policing has its roots, and that is why local accountability between Police Authorities and Chief Constables is crucially important and should not be undermined by greater central control.
An effort by UK Home Secretary John Reid [official profile] to pass a version of the US Megan's Law [JURIST report] has already led to tension between UK law enforcement and the government. Chief Constable Terry Granger, a leader of the ACPO, has accused Reid of pandering to a campaign [advocacy website] led by the tabloid News of the World [newspaper website]. The official spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to that assertion [press briefing summary] on Tuesday, saying Reid's decisions to move pedophiles out of halfway houses near schools and to send an undersecretary to the US to evaluate Megan's Law were "two perfectly sensible things." The Guardian has more.

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