20,000 police officers can be recruited in three years, PM tells board meeting

Boris Johnson has told the high-ranking team tasked with helping recruit 20,000 new police officers that the ambitious project will be complete within three years.

The Prime Minister gave an opening speech to the newly-established national policing board at its first meeting on Wednesday at the Home Office.

Chaired by Home Secretary Priti Patel, the team includes Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Sir Stephen House and head of counter-terrorism policing Neil Basu.

Mr Johnson told the board’s first meeting that its creation was an “absolutely crucial development” amid fears of a knife crime epidemic.

“We need to be getting crime down. We’ve done very well in some respects but too many crime types have been going in the wrong direction,” the PM said.

“And we can crack it. The answer is, I think, that you need strong, visible policing.”

He added: “Saj (Chancellor Sajid Javid) is going to provide the money. And we will get it done in the course of the next three years.”

The board, to meet quarterly, is tasked with holding the police to account for meeting the target, work on which begins in September.

It will also drive the national response to the most pressing issues that affect communities right across the country.

Also at the meeting were National Crime Agency director general Lynne Owens, National Police Chiefs Council chair Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners chair Katy Bourne.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor and Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism director general Tom Hurd were also present.

Mr Johnson also told the meeting during short opening remarks of a time when, alongside his policing minister Kit Malthouse, he had “arguments” with Met officers when as London mayor.

The PM said officers thought they could “get crime down with fewer men and women out on the streets”.

“And I said ‘no, I think it’s vital that we have visible policing’,” Mr Johnson said.

While his new recruitment pledge has been widely welcomed, there have been warnings about how the goal will be achieved.

College of Policing chief executive Mike Cunningham warned of a series of “logistical challenges”, following the closure of police stations across the country.

More than 600 police stations were shuttered since 2010, according to a Sunday Times investigation last year and Mr Malthouse had to defend the sell-offs in London during Mr Johnson’s tenure as mayor.