The new Police and Crime Commissioners are being installed to bring a modern accountability to the bobbies that pound our streets.

That’s what policing minister Nick Herbert believes the public want.

And he says the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is proof that giving the public a say and seeing it played out for all to see is “welcomed” by the electorate.

But with nine months to go before the elections take place, their are fears that the independence of the police is facing its biggest threat since the founding principles were given by Sir Robert Peel to the first Metropolitan Police officers in 1829.

Under the American-style plan, directly-elected commissioners will replace the current system of Police Authorities with the responsibility of helping to set policing priorities and holding the Chief Constable to account.

Privately, senior officers are concerned if newly-elected candidates tried to interfere or “flex their muscles”.

Lord Prescott suggested political involvement in operational decisions was sometimes justified, as he revealed his intention to become the Labour candidate for the role in Humberside.

He said: “The police always argue that [many things they do] are a matter of operations and politicians should not be involved. Well, I’m afraid I have a big argument with that.”

Police Minister Nick Herbert said there was “no wish at all to politicise the police” but people did want a “real say” over policing priorities and the role of Police and Crime Commissioners would give that to them.

“This will be a very important strategic partnership,” he said.

“Policing is a monopoly service, people don’t get to choose their police but when it comes to planning on the strategic direction it is right that is done by an elected official.

“This is all about fighting crime and making people feel safer. The important addition now is that we are going to have a new office that is going to give a voice to the public.”

Former city councillor Mike Olley, who wants to stand as Labour Party candidate for the West Midlands role, admitted the public presently knew little about the possibilities of the new office.

But he felt that once they had a champion, the public would enjoy the influence they could have.

“People, wherever they live, will have a real input into what vital services are delivered,” he said.

“The democratisation of the service will allow the people who receive the benefit of the service to have a say and that is no bad thing, thereby giving more power and influence to the public over this massively important aspect of their lives.”