Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 12:33 UK

Met boss wants political freedom

Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson outside Scotland Yard
Commissioner Paul Stephenson wants 'space' from politics

The Metropolitan Police must retain its "operational independence" by maintaining "space between policing and politics", Sir Paul Stephenson said.

The Met chief's comments came after an aide to Mayor Boris Johnson suggested they had wrested control of the Met.

The commissioner also said he "does not fear the accountability" which cost his predecessor Sir Ian Blair his job.

Met officers will be held accountable for every pound, starting with scrutiny of "the coffee bill", Sir Paul added.

'Attempts to tinker'

Speaking at the Police Superintendents' Association annual conference in Warwickshire, he set out the vision for the Met over the next 10 years.

Earlier this month deputy mayor for policing, Kit Malthouse, made comments about the mayor's office having its "hands on the tiller" of the Met which led to a row with top officers.

Referring to the issue, Sir Paul said: "There must be appropriate space between policing and politics.

I do not fear this level of accountability

Sir Paul Stephenson

"I've been brought up in my policing career on the inviolate principle of police operational independence.

"Sadly, in the past there have been a number of attempts to tinker with the phrase - I see no need.

"Mayor Johnson, and his people at City Hall, would be the first to accept that whilst wider views and opinions are helpful and to be encouraged, the decision of how to actually do it, who to target, where, when to act, what officers to use and how many were decisions for me and my officers, and ours alone."

Speaking about "incursion" which led to Sir Ian's resignation, he said: "We have seen accountability in London practised in the most dramatic fashion - we've lost a Commissioner.

"But I do not fear this level of accountability."

Police on YouTube

Sir Paul also stressed the financial accountability of officers after several were accused of misusing their corporate credit cards and 1,400 cards given to officers were withdrawn.

He said: "This will require tough decisions and a value for money culture that starts with scrutiny of the coffee bill and ends with scrutiny of the national framework contract for forensics or IT."

He said the force will move towards single patrolling as a "default position" as patrolling in pairs is seen as "waste".

Sir Ian Blair
Sir Ian resigned from his post in November

"We are confident that we will deploy an additional half a million hours of patrol in town centres over the next twelve months."

He also promised to tackle thugs by taking them to court "even when the injury caused by their thuggery is thankfully less than it might have been".

The police will also focus on performance and build relations with the local community and enlist their support to carry out effective stop and search operations.

The Met will also enhance visibility through social networking.

"If we can reach thousands of people through YouTube or social networking methods, we should adopt these technologies," he said.

Sir Paul also stressed increasing the diversity in the force, saying the Met has come "a long way" since being branded "institutionally racist" following the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

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