Boris Johnson under fire for using police for 'political stunt' during Brexit speech
Boris Johnson has been accused of using the police as a "political stunt" during a speech on Brexit.
Top police figures have urged the Prime Minister to apologise for making the address while flanked by dozens of police recruits.
Speaking at a police training centre in Wakefield, west Yorkshire, Mr Johnson used part of his speech to announce a Home Office recruitment drive aimed at placing 6,000 new officers into communities by March.
But he went on to talk about his determination to leave the EU on 31 October, accuse MPs of "scuppering" him and call for a general election.
Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, branded the event a "politial stunt".
The Labour politician added: "To use police officers as the backdrop to what became a political speech was inappropriate and they shouldn't have been put in that position.
"It clearly turned into a rant about Brexit, the Opposition and a potential general election. There's no way that police officers should've formed the backdrop to a speech of that nature."
John Apter, chair of the Police Federation, also hit out at the speech, saying: "I am surprised that police officers were used as a backdrop for a political speech in this way.
"I am sure that on reflection all concerned will agree that this was the wrong decision and it is disappointing that the focus has been taken away from the recruitment of 20,000 officers. This is what we should be talking about – this is what is important."
During a question-and-answer session with journalists after the speech, Mr Johnson said he would rather "die in a ditch" than return to Brussels to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline.
Meanwhile, referring to his expulsion of 21 Tory MPs for defying him over Brexit, said to the officers gathered behind him: “Sometimes you have to deliver discipline.
"Discipline is always tough, but here we are, amongst a body of men and woman who know sometimes you have to administer discipline, you have to be very clear about your message, and that’s what we’re being.”
Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper said: "This is an abuse of power by Boris Johnson, making so many police stop their training and work to be part of his political stunt," she tweeted.
"They have a job to do here in West Yorks, and they train and work hard for their whole community - completely unacceptable to use them in this way."
Fellow committee member Stephen Doughty said the speech was a "blatant attempt to politicise our brilliant police".
"They are not political props," he added.
In a statement, West Yorkshire Police said the visit was arranged to launch a "recruitment campaign for an extra 20,000 new police officers.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: "This was as long planned launch of an important police recruitment campaign.
"The PM was there to see the training and recruitment processes which some of the 20,000 new police officers we have announced will actually go through. It’s an important recruitment campaign and we are proud to back it."