Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Is Hugh Orde the Top Cop Union’s Official Candidate for Met Commissioner?

One could be forgiven for thinking so.

Admittedly, whether ACPO – the Association of Chief Police Officers – is a trade union or not is a nuanced point. They say they are a professional body, which for many white collar roles is the equivalent of a trade union (just as my own is in the world of accountancy). It works, it says, in the public interest – though you’ll have trouble finding a trade unionist who doesn’t think that their members’ interests are largely aligned with the public’s. There is a Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, but the boundaries between it and ACPO will inevitably become blurred at times.

Bill Bratton

Old Bill not so keen on Bill Bratton

ACPO is certainly seen to oppose elected chief constables; the government policy that threatens to end the closed shop and cosy club that is the higher ranks of the police service. Now its General Secretary President, Sir Hugh Orde, attacks the idea of a foreigner – the American Bill Bratton – becoming an adviser on gang crime, and thus implicitly his suitability for taking over as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; a job that Bratton is rumoured to be favoured for by Number 10 ‘in the longer term’. This is done just as a ‘traditional’ trade union might grumble over the use of foreign labour ‘taking their member’s jobs’ – or, as they would more likely put it in politically correct terms – compromising the quality of service or safety that otherwise only their members British workers can provide.

This being ACPO, Sir Hugh also throws in the ubiquitous complaint about politicisation of the police (which is equally debatable, given its implied assumption that the service isn’t already politicised).

To be fair, though, so far Hugh Orde is just doing his job as the leader of the ‘trade union’ of the top police brass, but with one crucial added factor; he sees himself as being in the running for the vacant job at the top of the Met. Slagging off the Prime Minister might be a strange way of going about making the case for his appointment, though it may well chime with the views and ethos of the Home Office civil servants who will be drawing up the short-list and advising the Home Secretary.

What is not so clear is how all this will be received by any other potential candidates among the top ranks. A chief constable of another large provincial force, say, might not be so happy with the interventions of Sir Hugh. Not that he or she might disagree with what he is saying, but that there can be little doubt that his comments would receive far less attention were he not the top man at ACPO.

ACPO themselves would no doubt say that the title of this post is a QTWTAIN. However, others might suggest that a more circumspect organisation would endeavour to put up spokesmen who would not be seen to have such a potential personal interest. After all, these days in politics how things look often trumps how things are.

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