Five former heads of Scotland Yard have penned a letter to Theresa May blaming her for the “emasculation of British policing”.
The former police commissioners said May was responsible for leaving the public in fear, that resources had been “drained to dangerously low levels” and victims had “perilously low expectations”.
The five former Metropolitan Police chiefs were in charge of London’s force from 1993 to 2017 and urged May’s successor to prioritise policing in a letter published in The Times.
Speaking at a leadership hustings event afterwards, Jeremy Hunt said “austerity did go too far on police numbers” and that we “need to do something about that.”
His rival to become Tory leader and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had previously pledged to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers, but has yet to explain how he would fund it.
The ex-Met bosses letter said: “The reduction of police and support staff by more than 30,000, the virtual destruction of neighbourhood policing and the inadvisable undermining of lawful police powers such as stop and search have taken their toll.”
A day earlier, Britain’s police watchdog warned “profound and far-reaching” changes to policing were needed or the safety of the public would be at risk.
Chief inspector of constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor, said in his annual state of policing report that there are “indications that some forces are straining under significant pressure as they try to meet growing complex and high-risk demand with weakened resources”.
London has seen a knife-crime epidemic hit its street this year and there have been more than 70 reports of murder, with 13 under the age of 20.
Many children have also been used to smuggle drugs around the country, with charity The Children Society saying they could be as young as seven.
A Home Office spokesperson responded to scrutiny over police funding, saying: “Police officers do a vital job in challenging circumstances and we recognise that demand on the police is changing and becoming more complex.
“We have already made progress reforming the police system but recognise there is still more to do and are working with policing leaders across the country to build a smarter, more efficient, system with crime prevention at its heart.
“Police funding has increased by more than £1 billion this year, including council tax and money to tackle serious violence. Police and Crime Commissioners have already indicated they plan to recruit over 3,500 extra officers and staff.”