GOING DOWN to a diverse community and telling the young people to consider a career with the police isn’t the best conversation starter. Believe me, I’ve done it. Dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Being a police officer just isn’t on their radar.
This difficulty aside, getting more people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities into our police force is de nitely a conversation we need to have. A city as diverse as London should have a police force that mirrors the ethnic makeup of its population as closely as possible.
Our communities – and particularly our young people – need to trust that the police are on their side, and having someone from their community working with them would help. Accomplishing an integrated force, however, is proving a very tough nut to crack.
Although London is approximately 41 per cent non-white, only 14 per cent of the nearly 30,000-strong police force is BAME. That just won’t do for 2019. London can do much better.
It must do better if we’re going to solve the crime problem on our streets, a problem that impacts youth from BAME communities to a highly disproportionate degree. Enter the volunteer police cadets. Over the past three years, the police cadets have managed a representation that’s 55 per cent BAME.
In part, that’s because the volunteer police cadets set out to deliberately mirror their communities in each borough, using the latest research to engage youth at risk of crime and social exclusion.
By giving young people who are feeling vulnerable a sense of responsibility and pride in serving their community and by giving them a path to link up with organisations like the Prince’s Trust, horizons get broader and paths forward become clearer.
What was once a small world, gets much bigger. This is exactly what happened to me as a young man when I joined a similar cadets force: the army cadets.
And in return, the cadets and organisations like the Prince’s Trust get a street-level view of the pressures in London’s communities and how they’re impacting young people.
As my 20 plus years of youth and community work has taught me, there is no substitute for having those conversations. Theory is fine, but without putting it into practice it’s of limited use. The streets aren’t always academic.
Being a police cadet is good practice; it gets you stuck into the events happening in your community.