My parents brought me up to always receive a gift with gratitude. So it’s in that spirit I welcome the new Prime Minister’s announcement there will be an extra 20,000 police over the next three years.
Boris Johnson is right. People do want to see more officers in their neighbourhoods, protecting them and tackling crime. I have always been an advocate of that and fought many battles with the previous Chief Constable to ensure no more police stations were closed.
Cheltenham, Quedgeley, Hucclecote, Barton St and the Forest of Dean were all stations I intervened to save. It is interesting to see now how the national focus has switched towards neighbourhood policing and I’m pleased the Constabulary is ahead of the game – though only after I made it the cornerstone of my manifesto when I sought a second term.
As always, though, the devil is in the detail. 20,000 extra police is a seductive headline; the health warning comes with the realisation that the three year time scale covers recruitment only. That’s how long before the cavalry comes over the hill as it takes the best part of 2 years before a recruit is ready for deployment on our streets.
The recognition that cuts in police needed to be reversed is welcome, but what does it mean for us? Under the current distribution process, we should get an extra 150 officers. It’s something I will be fighting for but it will only restore police numbers to where they were in 2010.
It won’t end there either because alongside these new officers will be the need for extra cars, radios, IT and HR Support, as well as training and a myriad other staff all of which are needed to support the front line.
But let’s not be churlish. With a new police academy currently being developed in Berkeley and due to open early next year, the Constabulary is well-placed to engage in the process. Unlike some forces, because of the buildings I saved from closure, accommodation will not be a problem either. It might even mean that police stations like Lydney, which was mothballed in 2012, could have a future.
We know there are a number of logistical challenges to be met if the Prime Minister is to deliver on his promise but it is also an exciting opportunity.