Theresa May warned the police yesterday that they will lose public trust unless they act with the ‘highest standards’ of honesty and integrity.
The Home Secretary said officers cannot hope to ‘retain the confidence of the public’ unless they are recognised as ‘honest and effective crime-fighters’.
The Home Secretary said police must not settle for anything less than ‘extremely high standards of integrity’.
And she added that ‘increasing transparency and accountability’ is critical from the bobby on the beat to chief constables.
‘Your responsibility to be truthful, ethical and effective – as leaders, police officers, and as human beings – underlies all of what you do,’ she said.
‘You cannot hope to retain the confidence of the public unless you are, and are recognised as being, honest and effective crime-fighters.
‘And it simply cannot be maintained if people think that senior police officers are lacking in integrity or behaving in a self-serving way – or if, on the street, your constables are being rude or disrespectful to the public.’
Miss May was speaking to officers at the annual conference of the Police Superintendents’ Association in Warwickshire.
Her comments came after she ordered an independent review of corruption and standards across England and Wales.
But the findings of work by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor have not been made public.
Last week one of Britain’s top officers was allowed to return to work despite neglecting his duties, abusing an air miles scheme and misusing his official credit card.
Former chief constable Stuart Hyde was told he can work as Cumbria’s deputy for three months until he retires in at the end of December.
He is one of nine of England’s most senior police officers who have faced or are facing disciplinary action or investigation over the past year.
Many see the flurry of inquiries as a sign of tension between long-serving senior officers and newly elected police and crime commissioners.
During her speech, Miss May warned that targets, which she has scrapped nationally, are making a comeback in many forces.
She told police officers that they must not ‘hide behind old processes and procedure’ and should instead have the ‘confidence’ to make their own decisions.
‘Those targets certainly aren’t coming from me, and they aren’t being used to increase the effectiveness of policing, she said.
‘Their main function seems to be to act as a security blanket for senior officers, a way to avoid taking responsibility for the decisions they have to make.’
The Home Secretary also warned that the unfair use of controversial stop-and-search powers can cause immense resentment.
She used her strongest language yet in a plea to police to scale back the ‘waste of time’ involved in the 1.2million searches carried out every year.
Miss May has said that the resulting arrest rate, which can be as little as three per cent in some areas, is ‘far too low for comfort’.
‘Stop and search can either be an effective policy for stopping street crime or it can be a means of generating distrust of the police. You can determine which it is,’ she said.
In conciliatory comments, she praised police for delivering effective services despite a 20 per cent cut in funding.
She called them ‘the model public service’, a sharp contrast to the former description by senior Tory figures of police as the ‘last unreformed public service’.
‘You have cut crime with fewer officers and lower budgets,’ Ms May said.
‘You are doing more with less. That makes you the model public service in the era of budget cuts,’ she said.
Miss May rejected the recent warning from superintendents’ representatives that the beat bobby is an ‘endangered species.’
She said the proportion of frontline officers has increased, from 89 per cent to 91 per cent, despite the reductions in police numbers.
The Police Superintendents’ Association represents around 1,300 superintendents and chief superintendents in England and Wales.
Theresa May warns police that they must maintain ‘highest standards’ of integrity to keep public trust