Priti Patel is Home Secretary, and MP for Witham.
On the day he became leader of our Party, Boris Johnson stood in Downing Street and delivered his first address to the nation as Prime Minister. He talked about levelling up, leaving the European Union, and delivering on the promises made to the people we serve.
He confirmed that we would fulfil one of the key election commitments – making our communities and country safer by putting 20,000 more police officers on our streets within three years. Just after making this speech, he appointed me Home Secretary and tasked me to get these new officers on the beat.
This is a key priority for this government, and we didn’t waste a second.
I launched a massive recruitment drive with the ‘Be a force for all’ rally cry asking people from all walks of life to join the police. I set up the National Policing Board, to hold the policing sector to account as we worked together to get these new recruits through the door, into training and out onto our streets. And we set an ambitious target of recruiting 6,000 officers by the end of April 2021.
Today, our first-year results have been released, and we have blown away that target. We have recruited almost 9,000 new officers. That means almost 45 per cent of our planned 20,000 officers are already in forces and I hope we reach the halfway milestone within the coming months.
This means more officers on our streets, more officers helping in our fight against criminals and more officers helping to protect the most vulnerable in society. Its more officers cutting crime and more officers helping us build back safer from this pandemic.
It goes without saying that the last twelve months have been challenging for our police, just as they have been for our entire country. They have had to enforce rules and regulations that no officer would have dreamed of and they have had to police restrictions on people’s liberty in a way no Conservative Home Secretary could ever wish for.
But they have worked tirelessly to keep us safe, continuing to take criminals off our streets whilst playing a crucial role in controlling the spread of the virus. And as is so often the case, they have put themselves in harm’s way to deal with the actions of a reckless few whilst protecting the law-abiding majority. They deserve not only our thanks, but our respect.
When we launched our recruitment campaign, I wrote that the 20,000 target was about more than just more officers on our streets, it was about restoring pride in policing as a profession. As I have toured the country over the last twelve months meeting new recruits, I think it’s fair to say that pride and respect has returned. As one officer said to me last week, there has now been a ‘resurgence’ in policing in this country.
As well as the public wanting to see more officers on our streets, they wanted to see them better resourced, better supported and they wanted to see the people they arrest locked up for longer. And so that is exactly what we have done.
We have backed our police, with the biggest funding settlement in a decade. We are introducing the Police Covenant, allowing more officers to carry Tasers, giving them more powers to search violent offenders and new powers to deal with Unauthorised Encampments and safely manage disruptive protests.
For this good work to continue we need good Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across the country. Next Thursday, every PCC in England and Wales is up for election. That means we have the chance to elect more Conservatives who will work with the government to make our streets safer.
While Labour MPs say they will simply ‘cut crime’ we know this is nonsense. It’s rhetoric not backed by actions.
Keir Starmer and his MPs have been in the division lobby voting against our Crime and Policing Bill – which contains a bundle measures designed to protect our officers and keep our streets safe. They have once again found themselves on the side of criminals, and not our police.
They have voted against funding increases, tougher sentences for violent offenders, more powers to take knives off our streets, delivering better protection for victims and witnesses, longer sentences for those who assault emergency workers, a police covenant – the list is embarrassingly long. We know they are soft on crime, and soft on the causes of crime.
So as Conservative Party activists pounding the pavements for these final seven days, one of our messages on the doorstep must be this: it’s only Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party that is putting more police on our streets to cut crime.