In his first week as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said he would reverse the devastating cuts to police numbers made under Cameron and May. Even if he begins today however, it is unlikely that these cuts can be reversed quickly. During nine years of decline and neglect of the police force, many older, experienced officers have left but not been replaced.
Though the headline figure of approximately 20,000 officers cut is widely known, it belies an even an even greater decline.
Between March 2010 and March 2019, police officer numbers in England and Wales fell by 20,563 from 143,734 to 121,171. The total police workforce however has been cut by 42,474 from 244,497 to 202,023: more than double the headline figure in police officer reductions. (The total police workforce includes Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), special constables and support staff who do vital jobs such as manning 999 lines, as well as front line officers.)
Though it is welcome that Johnson has made the right noises about re-invigorating the police force, he made no mention of replacing the 22,000 lost support officers and staff who will also be vital in improving the effectiveness of an extra 20,000 front line officers in fighting crime.
In addition, the College of Policing is changing the entry routes into becoming a police officer making it a degree-only profession and drastically increasing the time it takes to become a police officer. At present an 18-year-old can attend a Police College for five months of Initial Police Learning before embarking on two years of probation. From 2020, new police officers will have to complete a three-year degree apprenticeship, or a two-year diploma if they are graduates.
The very first act which Johnson must make is to reverse this decision, which will act a severe blockage to a quick increase in police numbers.
Even if the promised increase in police numbers does eventually materialise, it does not necessarily mean that the police force will be more effective. The rise of politically correct policing under both Blair/Brown and Cameron/May has led to an obsession with ‘hate crime’ and a concurrent neglect of real and violent crimes. Rates of homicide, rape, knife crime, assault and burglary in the UK have gone through the roof in the five years from mid-2014 to mid-2019.
Politicians often speak of the changing nature of crime but give little or no acknowledgement to the reality of the situation in certain areas. In particular, the pervasive culture of political correctness has created a fear of even mentioning criminality associated with certain ethnic groups, and even less desire to tackle it. Thus, rape and grooming gangs perpetrated mainly by ethnic Pakistanis, people trafficking by Albanians, Romanian pickpocketing, the role of Somalis and Congolese in violent street gangs and knife crime, or electoral fraud committed by Pakistani and Bangladeshi ‘community leaders’ often go unchecked.
Instead of a primary focus on tackling real crime, some forces such as the Metropolitan Police under Sadiq Khan and Cressida Dick have all but stopped investigating burglary or vandalism, preferring instead to ramp up false politicised narratives such as ‘Brexit-related hate crime’.
Johnson, and his new Home Secretary Priti Patel need to get tough on politically correct ideologies within the police and return it to being a force with a mission to find criminals, fraudsters and thugs and lock them up, rather than being a social engineering service which tries to regulate speech deemed to be politically incorrect while often turning a blind eye to criminals with protected characteristics.
Johnson has made lots of big promises in his first days as Prime Minister but has not given any indication of how he will pay for them. At a cost to the taxpayer of £60,000 per annum per officer, 20,000 extra officers would cost £1.2 billion per year. To replace the 42,000 lost from the total police workforce would cost around £2.5 billion per year. However, this is only a fraction of the net £10 billion the UK sends to the EU every year or the £14 billion annual Overseas Development budget, not to mention the hugely unpopular HS2, subsidies for highly dubious ‘green energy’ and the burgeoning multi-billion-pound quangocracy which produces no discernible benefits to the British people.
If he adopts a regime of fiscal responsibility which puts UK public services first, it would not be too difficult to find the money to reverse Cameron and May’s cuts to the police officers.
It remains to be seen whether Johnson will cut the fat from the UK government to build up the muscle.