Some very special guests dropped into the Cathedral School of St Mary this week to watch the passing out parade of the school’s first cohort of Mini Police.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez took time out from her busy schedule supporting the G7 Summit in Cornwall to visit the school and hand out certificates to the 28 year 4 pupils that completed the course.
And afterwards police dog handler PC John Warren and his sidekick Police Dog Flint enthralled the children with a display of the skills that make them such a formidable team.
“This is such an important project for the police in Plymouth,” said Commissioner Hernandez.
“So many of these children will have little or no contact with the police, some may even have a negative image of what the police do – be that either for domestic or cultural reasons.
“The Cathedral School has such a diverse group of pupils which is lovely to see and for them and their parents to have such a positive contact with the police will have significant long-term benefits.”
The commissioner has been very supportive of the Mini Police and, through the Stronger North Stonehouse project has supported the purchase of the ‘buddies’ which pupils use to teach parents and visitors to be more considerate in their actions.
The police piloted the Mini Police 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 six.
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.”