In a debate at the party’s Bournemouth conference , delegates voted by a show of hands for a model where two-thirds of police authority members would be directly elected and one-third nominated by councils.
However, where a police area and council have the same boundary, the council would directly control policing.
The party’s shadow home secretary Chris Huhne said he proposed “the greatest decentralisation ever of policing from Whitehall” with police authorities free to hire and fire chief constables and control their budgets without capping.
“We have to say who will be accountable for that, there must be no taxation without representation,” he said.
But Richard Kemp , the party’s Local Government Association group leader, complained that Mr Huhne had failed to consult councillors on his proposals, and had not even discussed them among Lib Dem MPs.
“Councillors have been ignored, and this is a deeply flawed resolution,” he said.
Devon CC leader Brian Greenslade said he supported Mr Huhne because police authorities had been too politicised when councils ran them prior to 1994.
But Northampton BC councillor Richard Church argued that directly elected police authorities would damage councils’ ability to join up youth, community safety and licensing with policing to tackle crime. “Are we going to have directly elected rat catchers too?” he asked.
Richmond upon Thames LBC councillor Sir David Williams said Lib Dem councillors “control£100bn of public spending, and that’s a£100bn more than anyone in the parliamentary does, so don’t tell us we can’t run policing”.
Cllr Kemp said Mr Huhne “cannot possibly be happy that his policy has only just squeaked through; next year we will bring a proper paper, not something only given to the conference 24 hours earlier [as he did]”.