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Sat, 15 August 2020

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Senior police chief criticises Boris Johnson for using officers as backdrop to speech

Senior police chief criticises Boris Johnson for using officers as backdrop to speech
3 min read

A senior police chief has joined in the criticism of Boris Johnson for using officers as the "backdrop" to a major speech.

John Robins, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, said he was "disappointed" at the Prime Minister's decision to make party political comments while flanked by dozens of new recruits during the event on Thursday.

Speaking at a police training centre in Wakefield, west Yorkshire, Mr Johnson announced the start of a major recruitment drive aimed at getting 6,000 new officers into the force 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.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Robins said the Prime Minister's politial remarks had "overshadowed" the announcement as he accused Downing Street of not giving the force "prior knowledge" of their intention.

He said: "I repeat that I am pleased that we were chosen as the focal point of the national recruitment campaign launch, but the good news of extra officers was overshadowed by the media coverage of other events.

"It was the understanding of West Yorkshire Police that any involvement of our officers was solely about police officer recruitment. We had no prior knowledge that the speech would be broadened to other issues until it was delivered."

He added: "Minutes before the speech, we were told that the NPAS (National Police Air Service) visit and subsequent brief to a small media pool had been cancelled. I was therefore disappointed to see my police officers as a backdrop to the part of the speech that was not related to recruitment.

"I am proud of the resilience and professionalism of every single one of our student officers yesterday. With the recruitment of additional officers alongside them over the next few years, we will hopefully be in a better position to now deliver the service that the public deserve and expect."

His comments come after Police Federation chair John Apter accused Mr Johnson of making the "wrong decision" at the event.

"I am surprised that police officers were used as a backdrop for a political speech in this way," he said.

"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."

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Committee chair Yvette Cooper accused Mr Johnson of using the police in a "political stunt".

"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."

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."

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