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Home Secretary Theresa May has hit back at senior police chiefs over political criticism of their initial riot response, insisting it was her job to tell forces "what the public want them to do".

Mrs May refused to accept complaints that politicians were overstepping the line after the head of Scotland Yard attacked "extremely hurtful and untrue" claims that police had been timid.

She defended the Government's determination to press ahead with police budget cuts, saying they could be made "without affecting their ability to do the job the public want them to do".

And she defended the decision to recruit US "Supercop" William Bratton as an adviser on tackling gang culture in the UK.

Friction between the police and the Government mounted today with the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, dismissing Mr Bratton's relevance.

And Metropolitan Police Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin complained of "inconsistencies" from Parliament over tactics and spoke of his upset at political criticism of the Met's response.


Mrs May said individual officers had done an "amazing job" in policing the streets during the rioting and looting and said the country owed them an "enormous debt of gratitude".

But she told Sky News Murnaghan programme: "The police and the politicians have different jobs to do here. The police have their operational independence, that's absolutely right.

"It is right that no politician should tell a police officer who to arrest or who to investigate.

"But the minister's job is both to ensure that the police know they have support when they get tough and also, it is my job as Home Secretary, to ensure that the police know what the public want them to do."


Press Association, photo by ukhomeoffice