“In policing… 20,000 police we’re putting out on the streets of this country.” Boris Johnson, Conservative campaign video
Boris Johnson has released a new video setting out the Conservatives’ key policies ahead of the General Election.
Policing features heavily in the video – which features dozens of posters with the slogan: “20,000 new police officers”.
Boris Johnson promised to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers in his first speech as Prime Minister.
We FactChecked him extensively on the issue of police strength when he was Mayor of London.
On one occasion he announced a drive to recruit 5,000 new constables for the Met Police – without mentioning that the Met expected to lose that number of officers through natural wastage.
All Mr Johnson was committing to was replacing the ones who left.
So the first thing FactCheck clarified with the new government was that the 20,000 new officers would come in addition to officers hired to replace those who left or retired.
The government is now on the record as saying that the 20,000 “will be additional to officers hired to fill existing vacancies.”
The plan is to recruit 6,000 new officers in the first year, then 14,000 over the following two years.
We now know how many officers each police force has been tasked with recruiting and you can find out how much police strength will grow in your area here.
So if all these officers are recruited, it will represent a major surge in police numbers in England and Wales.
But there’s a catch: we lost just over 20,000 police officers during austerity.
In March 2010, just before the Conservatives came in, there were 143, 734. In March this year, there were 123, 171. (See the full figures here – table H3).
So you could say that the new officers will simply cancel out previous cuts and get us back to 2010 levels.
The population of England and Wales is estimated to have gone up too – by around 3.5 million people since 2010.
So if officer numbers returned to the exact levels they reached in 2010, there would still be fewer per head of population.
And police officers only form part of the whole police service.
Other parts of the service like police staff, PCSOs and special constables have also seen their numbers fall significantly since 2010.
The total police workforce – including officers and all those other categories of people – has actually fallen from 245,000 in March 2010 to just over 202,000 in March 2019 – a fall of more than 40,000 people.
So if we hired 20,000 more police officers but no other members of the police family, total police workforce numbers would still be considerably down on 2010.