PCC and Chief Constable host London Volunteer Police Cadets
Essex Police played host to London’s finest on Monday June 9 when Volunteer Police Cadets from the Metropolitan Police Service delivered a presentation to a range of colleagues from within the Safer Essex network.
The event, organised and hosted jointly by the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable of Essex, saw eight uniformed Volunteer Police Cadets from across the capital march in traditional drill format through the grand assembly hall in Essex Police HQ, where they were formally greeted by the PCC and Chief Constable.
The cadets, from the London boroughs of Merton, Brent, Hounslow and Southwark, then went on to deliver a presentation on the scheme, which has been running in the capital since the late 1980s following the closure of the paid cadet recruitment scheme. The VPC now is decidedly different, operating as a diversion, engagement and volunteering programme. It also provides support to those who are considering a career in policing – many of whom wouldn’t have considered it before joining the programme.
All the young people spoke passionately about what it means to them to be part of the extended police family and work with the police service as a cadet. In many cases the cadets – most of whom are now leaders themselves within the programme – had joined the scheme following involvement with the police as either a victim, witness or suspect of crime, and spoke about how it had turned their lives around. In one case, a cadet who moved to London as a refugee after fleeing the civil war in Sri Lanka described how the VPC had supported him at a critically difficult time by helping him to gain confidence in speaking English, and make friends. Having now been in the VPC for over a year, he described the VPC as his ‘extended family’.
The VPC programme aims to support vulnerable young people, add value to policing and build confidence in communities. It is currently the only uniformed youth organisation in the UK with a stated aim of including 25 per cent of young people from crime vulnerable backgrounds and of reflecting the diversity of the communities in which it operates. 36 police services across the UK are now delivering or working towards implementing a VPC programme, and Pc Jon Thompson from the VPC national team was also on hand to provide information on the national picture, and funding and support available through the Youth United Foundation.
Stephen Kavanagh, the Chief Constable of Essex Police, who has worked with cadets in the Metropolitan Police Service in the past, described his hopes for the event and the opportunities for the future:
“It was great to spend an afternoon with cadets from the Met, reminding us of the exciting opportunities we have to involve young people in helping us as a police service do what we do better. I have long been impressed by the commitment of the young people in Volunteer Police Cadet schemes, and hugely impressed by the contribution they make to improving safety and crime prevention in their communities. We have some work to do now in Essex to make sure we develop a scheme that really meets the needs of our county, but I am excited about the future of an Essex VPC.”
The cadets also described how the VPC scheme provides an opportunity for young people to both learn and contribute. Through weekly parade nights delivered by police officers (most of whom give their time voluntarily) and civilian volunteers, young people learn about conflict resolution, citizenship and policing law and legislation. They also have the opportunity to develop critical teambuilding and leadership skills by participating in various residential courses and the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. But – as one cadet said – it’s not all ‘take, take, take’ as the unique aspect of the VPC programme is the extent to which cadets contribute to their communities.
Each cadet is in turn required to give at least three additional volunteering hours a month to supporting crime prevention and community safety activity such as crime prevention awareness visits and leafleting, mystery shopping operations with trading standards, and supporting the public at major events.
Following their presentation, the cadets then helped to lead workshops on how a similar programme could be delivered in Essex. Joining tables made up of a range of community safety partners including professionals from youth offending teams, district councils and probation, cadets helped to lead lively discussions on how young people can be more directly involved in enhancing the achievement of community safety priorities in Essex.
In closing the event and summarising next steps for the programme, Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said:
“I am enormously grateful to the cadets and staff from the Met who took the time to visit us in Essex and deliver an inspirational presentation on the Volunteer Police Cadet programme and how it can benefit both young people and communities. Essex is a large and diverse county containing extremely strong partnerships across the community safety spectrum. It was fantastic to debate the opportunities such a scheme provides together with cadets and their leaders, who represent the outstanding commitment and dedication of people throughout the programme. I’m excited about the prospects of such a scheme in Essex, which will provide young people in our county with a similar opportunity to make a real contribution to safety in their communities as they develop their own confidence and skills.”