Priti Patel 'ashamed' by lack of support for police officers

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Media captionPatel: Police "haven't always had enough support"

The new home secretary has told police officers she is "ashamed" that they have not had enough support from previous governments.

Priti Patel promised more resources to help bring a stop to officers being "overworked and undervalued".

The government has pledged 20,000 more officers over the next three years.

In her first major speech as home secretary, Ms Patel also said she wanted longer jail terms for "monsters" who attack police.

Ms Patel told the Police Superintendents' Association (PSA) conference she wanted to "reset the relationship" between the government and the police.

"This is a new government and I'm prepared to be frank. I'm ashamed to say you haven't always had enough support," she said at the conference in Warwickshire.

"You have been overworked and undervalued, unable to do the job you love as well as you'd like. And that stops now."

Image copyright Jacob King/PA Wire
Image caption Ms Patel spoke alongside PSA Ch Supt Paul Griffiths, who said the rank of superintendent was the most cut rank across the police force

Between March 2010 and March 2018, police forces in England and Wales lost 21,732 officers - a drop of 15%, according to Home Office figures.

The cuts came as part of austerity measures brought in by the Conservative and coalition governments, in an attempt to reduce the deficit.

But Ms Patel said she would do "everything" to ensure police had "the resources, the power and the authority" needed to help "restore pride" in the service.

She also said she was "urgently exploring" what more could be done to support families of officers killed on duty.

It comes after a recent spate of violent attacks on officers and the death of PC Andrew Harper, who was killed while investigating a burglary in Berkshire in August

On Monday, car thief Mubashar Hussain admitted seriously injuring PC Gareth Phillips, who he ran over with his own police car in Moseley, Birmingham, last month.

Ms Patel said the "epidemic of attacks" demanded urgent action, adding she was working to ensure such incidents were handled with "the appropriate severity".

Traditionally, the Police Superintendents' Association conference plays second fiddle to the annual gathering of the much larger Police Federation.

The federation event - attended by hundreds of constables, sergeants and inspectors - has acted as a barometer of the mood of the police service. The home secretary, who always attends, often becomes a recipient of their anger.

But this year's federation conference was cancelled after a cyber-attack - so all of the focus is on the superintendents' gathering.

The senior officers greeted Priti Patel's appearance on stage with applause and reacted positively to what she had to say. The questions from the association's members were probing, but polite.

Although some complained that her speech lacked detail, there was an acknowledgement that Ms Patel is trying to draw a line under the fractious nature of the police's previous relationship with the government.

The PSA's Ch Supt Paul Griffiths had earlier highlighted that numbers at the rank of superintendent have been cut by 25% since 2010, making it the most cut rank across the police force.

The PSA has called for another 300 superintendents to be recruited as part of the additional 20,000 officers that were pledged by Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he took office in July.

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