The Police and Young People – friend or foe?

It’s with great interest that we have been watching the fall out from Paris Brown’s twitter account, Police Crime Commissioners (PCC) responses and the swaying public interest on youth engagement and the Police:

Since the London riots in 2011, relations between young people and the Police have been in the public eye. So much so, that the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS) wrote to every Police Crime Commissioner, asking them to support their five pledges:

These five are for PCC’s to:

  1. Make themselves available to young people
  2. Treat all young people as citizens, equal with other groups
  3. Provide an equal platform for all, including minorities and those marginalized
  4. Establish a way of meaningful representation of young people’s views
  5. Support the police force to engage positively with all young people

More than half of the PCC’s agreed and pledged their support. GREAT NEWS!

Point 4 interests us, and has led to a few PCC’s appointing one young person to be their youth engagement “guru”.

We have been running Police Youth Think Tanks in London for three years. This opportunity is for the Police and young people to sit at the same table. There, they talk about joint problems and solve them together.

This project recruits young people that are most likely to have contact with the Police. It also recruits Senior Police Officers or those that have had complaints made against them by young people.

We are thrilled that PCC’s are taking young people seriously. It is vital that young people are given support to make informed choices. This includes budgets and staff time. We are also talking about buy-in. We are talking about the opportunity for both the Police and young people to make tangible changes in their communities.

Where youth engagement schemes are new, we have found that young people’s involvement can be tokenistic. This leaves young people feeling used for political gain. They can also be seen as a young local “celebrity” by their peers. All words and no action. Not the message that you want to send to your community. 

Over the years, we have seen many different types of youth and adult engagement groups that turn into whining-shops. That’s often why our services are brought in. We love turning them into action-shops! What is evident is that when you build trust, rapport and fun into these groups, the action shortly follows.

Since 2010, we have seen young people and the Police work solutions to the following:

  • Using social media to communicate key messages.
  • Young people understanding how difficult it is to be a Police Officer.
  • How young people perceive the Police when they are approached.
  • Suggesting recommendations to the Police complaints procedure.
  • Dispelling myths around profiling and stop and search.

This takes time, and it’s often difficult to measure impact and quantitative outcomes.

We would be very interested to hear how other groups have designed ways of working that measure both the qualitative and quantitative.  Particularly when the group is never the same is labeled as hard to reach.

Thoughts on a postcard please!

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