Page last updated at 12:38 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 13:38 UK

Warning of cuts in police numbers

Sir Hugh Orde
Sir Hugh Orde takes over in September

The incoming president of the Association of Chief Police Officers has said cuts in the number of police officers are becoming a "reality".

Sir Hugh Orde said at a meeting in Manchester that many police authorities were already "feeling the strain".

He said the economic situation had put inevitable pressure on budgets.

Sir Hugh officially takes over as president in September after leading the Police Service of Northern Ireland for seven years.

In his first speech to chief constables, Sir Hugh predicted said there would be real difficulties for forces if funding were cut after 2011.

He said: "The future holds difficult choices. The emerging realities of public spending will mean tough choices and we need honest conversations now with government about priorities.

Every professional bone in my body tells me it is a bad idea
Sir Hugh Orde

"Nowhere will the impacts be more keenly felt than in service strength.

"The prospect of cutting both officer and staff numbers in order to keep running costs down is fast becoming a reality."

The police have benefited from high levels of government investment in recent years, with record numbers of police and community support officers.

But forces must make efficiency savings of about 7% during the current and next financial year.

Sir Hugh also used his speech to attack proposals from the Conservatives to replace local police authorities with directly elected commissioners.

"The strengths of UK policing rest on the bedrock of independence and accountability," he told the audience.

Frank conversations

"The reality and complexity of policing is not an attractive subject for those seeking sound bites.

"The links between community policing and highly sophisticated anti-terrorist operations are difficult and on occasions impossible to explain - but critical if we are to protect communities.

"We need to get this message across through frank conversations with those in power or aspiring to power."

"We carry the responsibility to deliver. If people seriously think some form of elected individual is better placed to oversee policing than the current structure, then I am very interested in the detail of how that is going to work.

"Every professional bone in my body tells me it is a bad idea that could drive a coach and horses through the current model of accountability for no added value but plenty of confusion."

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