Theresa May is the "single most damaging thing" to police morale, whose "insane" policies have disillusioned officers. That is the view of Kevin Hurley, the country's most outspoken Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), who believes the home secretary has a "contemptuous" attitude towards police staff.
In a scathing personal attack on May, Surrey's commissioner accused the MP of pushing through reforms that made officers turn their backs on police forces at the peak of their careers.
Hurley, a former soldier with 30 years of police service under his belt, blasted May for talking to senior staff "like infants" and contends officers no longer have the support of the Home Office.
"I can tell you absolutely, Theresa May is the single most damaging thing the police are facing at the moment in terms of their morale," he told IBTimes UK.
"I think Theresa May is doing massive damage to the morale and motivation of the police officers and the police staff that we rely upon to keep us safe. They called her 'Cruella' as she treats them with contempt.
"I've seen the way she speaks to them at the Police Federation conference, even the last time the leader of the Federation held out an olive branch she was contemptuous and I've also seen her in action talking to senior police officers and PCCs and I find her so patronising. It's quite offensive. She talks down to you like an infant."
Hurley was speaking to IBTimes UK as he bids for re-election to the office May introduced in 2012. The PCC elections will take place on May 5, the same day Londoners go to the polls to elect a new mayor and assembly. Last time, Hurley romped to victory as an independent – after losing out on the Conservative nomination – in the Tory heartland on a "zero tolerance" ticket and a vow to "keep politics out of policing".
But that has not stopped Hurley, who previously served in the Metropolitan Police – reaching the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent – as well as the Parachute Regiment and Royal Military Police, from speaking out on the politics of policing.
His controversial stances have put him at loggerheads with May and he is seeking an apology from the MP – the highest-ranked female cabinet member and longest-serving home secretary in modern politics – after she said Hurley gave PCCs a "bad name".
The row erupted when Hurley criticised the appointment of Lynne Owens, his former chief constable, as the head of the National Crime Agency (NCA).
He later claimed Owens would have faced dismissal from Surrey Police had she not been picked for the NCA job because of evidence he said he found showing that she failed in her job to protect vulnerable victims of crime. Owens denies the charge and is "focussed on her national role in leading the fight to cut serious and organised crime", an NCA spokesperson said. The Home Office would not comment.
"The controversy here is that I've now brought these failings to the attention of the home secretary and she's trying to stave off the embarrassment this situation creates by attacking me in the national media," Hurley added.
"I've now gone down the route of writing several letters to her by a very skilled defamation lawyer asking her to apologise for the untruths she has said about me."
The Police Federation memorably shunned May at its 2014 conference one year before the home secretary tried to turn the tables on the union by accusing it of "scaremongering". Hurley believes she invoked their wrath by failing to argue against the chancellor when it came to budget cuts and by fast-tracking new superintendents from outside police forces.
"My goodness me, bringing in a direct entrant superintendent in is the equivalent to bringing in a Wing Commander Squadron leader into the Royal Air Force, giving them a little bit on the job training and saying: 'Go on, now go and run a squadron of 15 Tornado Fighters'. It's unbelievable. Or give them 15 months training and saying: 'Now, go and run an infantry battle group in Afghanistan.' It's monstrous, it's insane, it's really stupid.
"As someone who held superintendent rank in the police for more than ten years who is also well-educated with a degree, I can tell you it is absolutely ludicrous to think that someone can come in from outside and conduct themselves in the office of superintendent in the police with no background. It's very insulting to the chief inspectors, the sergeants that we rely upon to lead our police officers."