Priti Patel has urged the police to get out there and “zap the bad people” as she reiterated her commitment to ensuring all frontline officers were issued with Tasers.
The Home Secretary said she was determined to give the police all the support and equipment they needed to do their job effectively.
Speaking at the Police Federation of England and Wales annual conference, Ms Patel thanked officers for all the work they had done during the pandemic.
Asked if she had a message for officers now life was beginning to return to normal, she said she wanted to see them get back to doing the job they had signed up for and tackling dangerous criminals.
“As we come out of the crisis, as we come back to living our lives we know that we have got new challenges, cutting crime, going out there and really zapping the bad people out there, the criminals that perpetrate high harms.
“From my perspective that is about backing the police and giving all officers all the support they need to empower them to get on and do their job,” she said.
The Home Secretary said she had officers’ backs and insisted the Government was listening to demands for more funding and resources.
She said as well as pledging to recruit an extra 20,000 officers, she had made £10 million available to ensure that every officer who wanted a Taser could have one and had also approved the rollout of the faster Taser 7.
Police Sgt Ivan Merc from the West Midlands Firearms Unit demonstrates how to use an X2 taser which has being rolled out in the West Midlands
Ms Patel told officers: “This country has endured an incredible shock, the likes of which none of us has experienced before and you have played a heroic role in bringing us through.
“As we come out of coronavirus, we must cut crime and build back safer – and we can’t do it without you.”
She went on: “Without you, the public would not feel safe. Without you, criminals would run riot and this country would fall apart. Our country depends on you. And I have got your backs.”
But the Home Secretary faced criticism, including from the Police Federation chairman, John Apter, over the Government’s failure to offer priority vaccination to all frontline officers.
Mr Apter said: “This was never about police officers elbowing their way to the front of the vaccination queue. I always said it was right that the most vulnerable and colleagues from the NHS were prioritised for the vaccine…. but after these, police officers, because of what is expected of them, should have been next.”
He accused the Government of offering “warm words” but delivering “lame actions” and said his colleagues felt a "deep sense of betrayal".
Mr Apter said this week thousands of officers from around the country, many of whom had not been vaccinated, would be massing together to police the G7 summit in Cornwall.
He went on: “This is a failing of government…. and it’s a failing that we will never forget.”
Addressing the issue Ms Patel said she had listened to the police carefully and had lobbied hard to achieve priority vaccination for officers.
But she said ultimately the Government had relied on the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) to prioritise vaccines by age and clinical vulnerability.
Mr Apter also expressed his anger over the way police officers had often been “labelled the villains of the pandemic”.
He said they faced being attacked and spat at by those who weaponised the virus.
He said: “To those individuals … you disgust me …. you completely disgust me. And I know that you disgust every decent, law-abiding person.”
Mr Apter also condemned those who sought to film footage of police officers being attacked and then post it online for “entertainment”.
He said social media companies and the government had to do more to tackle the problem, and added: “What kind of society have we become when attacking police officers is seen as nothing more than entertainment….or as a sport?”