Theresa May told the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners partnership summit in Harrogate that police commissioners (PCCs) were making a difference across the country.
She said she believed turnout at the next PCC elections in 2016 would be “higher than before”.
The Home Secretary described the former police authorities as “invisible committees of unknown appointees” and warned against returning to a similar arrangement.
She said: “When I hear that the Labour Party want a ‘new political settlement’ for policing, which would replace police and crime commissioners with a ‘policing board’ made up of local council leaders, or when I hear that the Liberal Democrats - who failed to even put up a candidate in South Yorkshire - propose a similar ‘board’ of appointed councillors, I am reminded of those dark days of invisible, unaccountable committees.
“We should call these policing boards for what they really are - police authorities by another name.
“And when we look at the positives that police and crime commissioners are bringing, we can see just why returning to a committee model would be a grave mistake.”
Mrs May told the audience at the conference: “Our opponents said you couldn’t cut police spending without crime going up. They were wrong.
“They said you couldn’t cut spending without damaging the front line. They were wrong.
“They said there was no need for police reform. And they were proved wrong again.
“And they say they want to replace police and crime commissioners with invisible, unelected committees. And in that they are absolutely wrong again.
“Police and crime commissioners are providing accountable, visible leadership and making a real difference to policing locally. And for that we should all be pleased.”
Mrs May said turnout in the first PCC elections was “disappointing” but said the next elections would be held in May at the same time as local authority elections.
She said: “Under this Government, more than 5.8 million votes have been cast for police and crime commissioners in total. That’s 5.8 million more votes than were ever received by any police authority.
“We have every reason to believe that turnout at the next election in 2016 will be higher than before.”