Building good relationships between the police and the community has been one of the key aims of Stronger North Stonehouse – and a great place to start is with schoolchildren.
Last week the Cathedral School of St Mary became one of the first in Plymouth to implement the Devon and Cornwall Police’s Mini-Police Scheme and Stronger North Stonehouse has been happy to support the project by purchasing resources such as the parking buddies (which can be seen in the photographs).
The police piloted the scheme in early 2020 but it was put on hold due to the pandemic.
The scheme was so successful it was decided to roll it out in 2021 and the force has now invested in six youth engagement officers who will be delivering mini-police in primary schools across the two counties.
In Plymouth there are 60 schools and so far Mini-Police has been delivered in four – Cathedral School being latest.
The scheme is suited for 20-25 pupils who go through a six week programme covering issues ranging from internet safety, antisocial behaviour, environmental issues and developing community safety messages which are tailored to their local areas.
PC Deborah Hart, the police youth engagement officer for Plymouth, said: “Their biggest feedback is the trust you gain. When you first engage young people, it does take some time to build-up that trust.
“I found that over the six week period of the programme you can feel the trust growing together with their confidence.
“We found that particularly on week four when we deliver a social action community message. Today we have been onto the streets around the school talking about antisocial behaviour, keeping people safe and safer parking.
“The mini police officers have been able to engage with the community, to share their experience and what they have learnt about consequences to offenders and victims.
“So, for me the biggest feedback from them is that they have built trust in the police force, they have built a relationship with myself and they are able to share their experience with their peers in school and the community.”
PC Hart says that parents have noticed a change in their children too.
“Parents say they have noticed that their children’s confidence has grown and along with the head teacher they have felt it has been a very rewarding programme,” she said.
“Some children have even told parents they want to go on and join the police force as a result of it which is really tremendous feedback.”
Mark Dawson, head teacher at the Cathedral School, said: “This scheme has brilliant for our children to form a stronger link with the community and the police themselves. They have really enjoyed having an actual police officer coming in and working with them.
“For us it’s about making sure we can give back to the community and that our surroundings are as safe as they can be.
“There are 32 children taking part in the Mini-Police here. This is the first group to go through the scheme and they have got so much out of it. They are out there in the community with police officers trying to raise awareness of how important it is to keep ourselves safe.
“The feedback we have had from the children is incredibly positive and from the staff too, so it is definitely something we want to continue in future years.
“It is hugely important for the police to be having this kind of positive involvement with families.
“For us it’s about making sure that the police are seen as the good guys and having those good relationships not just with the children but their parents who can talk together positively about the work that have been doing with our school.”