Boris Johnson’s 20,000 bobbies on the beat is not what the public needs, top officer warns

Recruits are needed for senior ranks and investigative roles, the government is told

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 09 September 2019 06:36
Priti Patel is to address the Police Superintendents' Association conference in major speech
Priti Patel is to address the Police Superintendents' Association conference in major speech

Recruiting 20,000 bobbies on the beat is not the right way to rebuild the police service following years of Tory cuts, the government will be told on Monday.

The president of the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) is to tell the home secretary to “be honest” about the roles that extra officers will need to fill to reduce crime and solve more cases.

Speaking at the body’s annual conference, Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths will say: “We have to come together as a service, with realistic, tangible solutions for making the absolute most of this generational opportunity.

“Whilst the public would be forgiven for believing that all the additional officers will be ‘walking their local beats’, we should be honest and strategic about how we rebuild our fine service.”

He said the superintendents and chief superintendents that the PSA represents must see their rank bolstered, as well as entry-level constables.

Ch Supt Griffiths is the latest senior officer to question how the 20,000 uplift will be spread through roles, ranks and the 43 regional forces in England and Wales.

The government has created a new policing board to implement the policy, but the PSA and Police Federation have not yet been invited to sit on it.

Ch Supt Griffiths is to question the exclusion in his speech, urging Priti Patel to “take the workforce with you on this journey of police reform”.

The home secretary is also to address the conference in Stratford-upon-Avon on Monday, where she will call for harsher punishments for people who assault police, vow to improve protection for officers and increase support for families of those injured and killed in the line of duty.

“We want a better deal for the police and a worse deal for criminals, we want to cut crime and lawlessness,“ Ms Patel is to say.

“As home secretary, I am your public champion. I am making it my mission to ensure the people you serve get behind you. And I won’t stop until the whole country shares my pride in our incredible police.”

It comes amid accusations that the government is using police as a “political tool”.

The prime minister gave a speech on Brexit surrounded by uniformed officers in Wakefield on Thursday, even though West Yorkshire Police had been assured he would only discuss the recruitment drive.

Police officer almost faints during Boris Johnson speech

Boris Johnson implied the 20,000 new recruits would be “bobbies on the beat” in July, saying: “People want to see more officers in their neighbourhoods, protecting the public and cutting crime.”

His pledge came after the Conservatives rebuffed years of calls to undo budget cuts that caused the loss of almost 21,000 officers, decimating neighbourhood policing as crime detection and prosecution rates fell.

As home secretary, Theresa May accused rank-and-file officers of “crying wolf” over the impact of budget cuts in 2015, but three years later Sajid Javid admitted that police needed more resources amid public concern over rising violence.

The chancellor has promised £750m for the first year of recruitment, with £45m to be spent by the end of 2019 to hire the first 2,000.

But police leaders have raised doubts over whether there will be enough suitable candidates or sufficient training capacity to hit the target in three years.

Analysis by The Independent suggests that more than 46,000 officers will have to be hired to replace those leaving the service and hit the 20,000 boost. More than half of police forces are currently failing to meet recruitment targets.

Even if achieved, the uplift would still fall short of the 21,000 officers lost since 2010 – and there are no plans to reverse the separate decline of 15,000 police staff.

Ch Supt Griffiths is to detail the “human cost of funding cuts”, saying that a quarter of superintendent ranks have been cut in the period, causing officers’ workload and hours to rise.

“The cost of running the service has been shifting from the organisation to the individual and this is not acceptable or fair,” he will say.

“Officers are constantly abused, harassed, assaulted and attacked in increasing numbers … suffering as victims of their own dedication. These are the people we need to support, and we owe them the promise of a commitment to change, support and value.”