The world has watched Boris Johnson become leader of the Conservative Party and move into Number 10 as Prime Minister to succeed Theresa May. Since then, Johnson has reaffirmed his commitment to recruit 20,000 more police officers over the next three years, writes John Apter. This is a positive sign and a commitment for which I will certainly be holding him to account. There’s also need to ensure that the individuals brought on board are an additional 20,000 full-time and warranted police officers.
We know only too well that numbers do matter. With almost 22,000 fewer officers since 2010 to keep our communities safe, it’s both difficult and frustrating for hard-working police officers to come to terms with not being able to deliver the same level of service they were once able to. There are officers struggling, both personally and professionally, because of the cuts to policing. The fact that they just get on with the job despite the challenges they face shows their sheer dedication, not to mention some of the immense acts of courage which we celebrated at the Police Bravery Awards only recently.
Value of neighbourhood policing
During his Conservative Party leadership campaign, I was also heartened to hear the (then) would-be Prime Minister talk about the value of neighbourhood policing, as not only does this provide the visible reassurance that the public rightly expects, but it also deters crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as providing an invaluable source of information in the fight against crime and terror.
As we look to the future for policing, we have a new Prime Minister who has pledged to increase police officer numbers by 20,000, a new Chancellor in Sajid Javid who has talked of the same and a new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who said on LBC only weeks ago that we need to have police numbers back to where they once were.
There has also been the news of the 2.5% pay increase for police officers. There’s still a long way to go to make up for years of real-terms pay cuts, but it’s a small step in the right direction. In parallel, there has been the announcement of a Police Covenant which should improve the welfare support for officers. Both of these moves suggest a fresh and optimistic change of direction by Government.
Positive changes supporting the police
Moving forward, we will play our part to help make positive changes that support policing, police officers and the public we serve. It doesn’t mean we will always agree with Government. There’s still much to be done in Westminster to regain the trust and confidence of the police service, but the noises coming from the new Government do appear to signal a change for the better and that’s to be welcomed.
In addition to recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers, Government needs to ensure the police service has increased funding through the Comprehensive Spending Review to be able to deal with new, as well as existing challenges.
Policing deserves better. The public deserves better. Now’s the time for the politicians to turn promising words into positive actions.
John Apter is Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales