The Home Secretary said she was “very proudly pro-police” as she unveiled plans to give volunteer police officers powers to use Tasers.
Her comments come as Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street the Government’s “crucial duty” is to make communities safe as it faced criticism over the move to arm special constables with the weapons, which deliver an electric current through two small-barbed darts.
Announcing the move during a speech at the annual Police Federation conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Priti Patel said: “Human rights are not just for criminals, but the law-abiding majority … and that means standing squarely with you – our police.
“I am very proudly pro-police, and … anyone who feels differently should certainly vote for someone else.
“I know many of you feel that you’ve waited a long time for a Home Secretary to be on your side and listen to your calls for change. Not only have I listened, I’ve acted and I’ll continue to work with you because I do think it’s important that you have a Home Secretary that champions many of your calls in government.”
During the event, Ms Patel was told that some police officers were having to go to food banks as she was pressed with questions over pay.
The federation is among police organisations embroiled in a row with the Government over a pay freeze for officers.
Allowing special constables to carry the electroshock weapons, if authorised by their chief officers, will ensure they are not “at a disadvantage when facing an attacker wielding a knife or a marauding terrorist”, the Home Office said.
But Amnesty International UK branded the decision “dangerous” and said it will lead to “more instances of misuse, serious harm and death from Tasers”.
The volunteers will receive the same training as constables, with deployment of the weapons remaining an operational matter for police chiefs.
Ms Patel also used her speech to call for “better culture and higher standards”, telling delegates that the public is in “urgent need of reassurance”.
She said the “whole country was shattered and horrified by Sarah Everard’s abduction, rape and murder by a serving officer” and the “horrendous case” had “undermined confidence in the police”.
Former Pc Wayne Couzens was handed a whole-life term last year for the rape and murder of the 33-year-old after he abducted her in south London on March 3 2021.
Ms Patel said she was “unequivocal that unacceptable behaviour must be rooted out and called out” and that “every necessary change must be made, without fear or favour.”
As your champion in Westminster, I can tell you now, I will not hold back, I will call a spade a spade, and I will do everything that I possibly can to make policing as attractive and dynamic and rewarding and rightly so, to make sure that policing represents the very best of you all
Police “need to raise the bar so that women and girls feel confident in reporting crimes”, she said, adding: “The rising cases of officers misusing social media or abusing their positions of trust for sexual purposes is concerning and we have seen egregious examples in recent months.”
It is also “vital” officers “speak up when they witness misconduct by their colleagues.”
“Hard-working, dedicated and decent police officers, like you all, are dreadfully undermined by such intolerable behaviour.
“Public confidence in the police could not matter more and you cannot do your jobs if that consent and support breaks down.”
Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson told the Cabinet meeting the Government wants to make victims of domestic and sexual violence confident they are on their side. While Ms Patel told delegates “none of us in this room will ever let women and girls down”.
Ms Patel added that she was “especially proud” that Harper’s Law – introducing mandatory life jail sentences for those who kill an emergency services worker while committing a crime – will come into force from the end of June.
She praised Lissie Harper, the widow of Andrew Harper who was killed in the line of duty, for campaigning “bravely and effectively”.
Concluding her speech, Ms Patel told police officers: “As your champion in Westminster, I can tell you now, I will not hold back, I will call a spade a spade, and I will do everything that I possibly can to make policing as attractive and dynamic and rewarding and rightly so, to make sure that policing represents the very best of you all.”