West Yorkshire Police boss demands answers from Chief Constable after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's visit

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has demanded a full explanation from Chief Constable John Robins following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's visit to Wakefield yesterday.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 11:09 am
Updated Friday, 6th September 2019, 12:09 pm
Boris Johnson at the Carr Gate in Wakefield.

The Prime Minister's visit was to coincide with the launch of a national campaign to recruit 20,000 extra police officers across England and Wales, but Mr Burns-Williamson said his speech turned into a rant about Brexit.

The Police and Crime Commissioner said for the Prime Minister to use trainee police officers as "the backdrop to what became a political speech was totally inappropriate".

He added that the officers and West Yorkshire Police "should not have been put in that position" and has demanded a full explanation from the Chief Constable about what happened on Thursday.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I had already said in a statement I had issued yesterday that the Government reversal around police recruitment appeared to be a tacit admittance that they had got it wrong over the past 10 years or so, despite the attempts of Boris Johnson on his visit to West Yorkshire to wash over his own Government’s legacy on support and funding for policing.

“I said that before he came, so for him to then use trainee police officers as the backdrop to what became a political speech was totally inappropriate, those officers and West Yorkshire Police should not have been put in that position.

“A visit from the Home Secretary which originally started out as a discussion about the plans for police recruitment, clearly turned into a rant about Brexit, about the opposition and appeared to be blatant electioneering, which was completely unacceptable as a last minute hijacking of the visit by Boris Johnson.

“The news of the recruitment drive and the acknowledgement of how officers and staff have suffered with austerity was completely lost because he was only interested in getting his own agenda across.

“There is no way police officers and staff, who clearly thought it would be all about police recruitment announcements, should have formed a backdrop to a speech of that nature.

“I have asked the Chief Constable John Robins for a full explanation around what happened and he is already aware of my dismay and wider concerns this has created and that the public and the media saw through the attempts by Boris Johnson to cloak his political speech under the guise of police recruitment announcements.”

A West Yorkshire Police trainee appeared to faint during the Prime Minister's speech after he kept officers waiting for more than an hour.

In the final moments of his speech, the trainee standing directly behind the PM put her hand to her head and sat down on the floor, apparently unable to stand any longer.

In a statement, West Yorkshire Chief Constable John Robins said on yesterday’s Ministerial visit: "Yesterday’s visit by the Prime Minister and Home Secretary was to visit our Carr Gate training facilities, to announce the launch of the national recruitment campaign for an extra 20,000 police officers.

"There were four stages to the visit at four different points on our Carr Gate site. These were a visit to the Mounted Section, an informal meeting with new student officers, a 5 minute speech by the Prime Minister followed by media questions to launch the recruitment campaign and a then a visit to the NPAS base where the Prime Minister was to deliver a 10 minute speech to the media, without police officers present and take questions (whilst the Home Secretary would speak to NPAS officers and staff inside).S

He added: “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.

"Minutes before the speech, we were told that the NPAS 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.”