Last Friday I had a really good meeting with local Sussex Police commanders in Brighton and heard about how they're tackling crime.

I was impressed by their commitment to preventing youth crime and neighbourhood policing, and encouraged that this work will continue despite the need for the force to make big savings.  It underlined the Chief Constable's "first priority" to protect the frontline.

I also heard about the challenges Sussex Police faced in dealing with the recent student protests in Brighton.

As I said recently in the Commons, and when I was interviewed on Sunday, we must cherish the right to peaceful protest, but vandalism and violent disorder are totally unacceptable.

This week I was honoured to introduce Bill Bratton, America's best-known police officer, at an event in London.

Bratton is one of the world's greatest crime fighters - the only person ever to serve as head of both the Los Angeles and the New York police departments.

He drove down crime in both cities, repeating his success in LA even though he had far fewer police officers.

As he said, "cops count ... but it's not so much about the number of police that you have ... as what you do with them."

The UK and the USA are different places with different traditions.  We certainly wouldn't want to import every American practice on law and order here, and with 17,000 police departments compared to our 43 forces in England and Wales, there is no single US model anyway.

But when Bratton advocates allowing police commanders the freedom to be strong and innovative managers, while simultaneously ensuring that they are held to account, I think he has a real point.

Yesterday I introduced the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill in the House of Commons.

By allowing the public to elect Police and Crime Commissioners, replacing invisible police authorities, we will create that stronger local accountability.  Communities will have a real say.

But we will also give police forces the freedom from bureaucracy that they need to do the job.

It's about enabling the police to be crime fighters, not form writers.  Innovative and committed local cops like the ones I met on Friday will thrive.  And the public will be safer.

Christopher N Howarth