What does a 16 year old know about crime and policing – that a 50-something experienced Police Commissioner doesn’t already know? Quite a lot, I reckon. Which is why I propose to have a Young Person’s Police Commissioner in Warwickshire.
Members of the Youth Parliament for Warwickshire have proved to be an effective voice in recent years – identifying issues and leading campaigns. They may not have a vote – but they have a voice, and they can be very effective at making it heard.
If the elected Police Commissioners succeed in strengthening accountability for how our police forces work, then that needs to be applied to all who are policed, whatever their age.
We seem to have surveyed their opinions often enough. A detailed analysis of young people’s views in Warwickshire gave us some interesting findings. For instance, one in four said that they felt in need of more information about hard drugs. One in five said they didn’t feel completely safe in their community. Top worries about becoming a potential victim of crime included attack and cyber-bullying.
The Police Foundation and the National Centre for Social research last year published work on young people attitudes towards the police and the criminal justice system. As well as calling for more training for police officers on working with young children, it made one other significant recommendation. It wanted to see members of young people’s social networks acting as intermediaries with the police.
There’s the vital ink, to my mind. However hard we try, we 50-somethings aren’t going to be as connected to young people as we might think or hope. Younger police officers may manage it a lot better! So, for those who are potentially going to guide public services along in a way that understands their concerns and reflects their needs, young people need to be alongside us as we make those decisions.
A Youth Commissioner would have a vital input to our thinking about the right way to strengthen the link between schools, colleges and the local neighbourhood police, to building confidence between young people and the police, and to helping young people reduce the risk of becoming a victim, or of drifting towards criminal behaviour.
An Action for Children survey on knife crime, 2009, records one 14-year old speaking for many in saying, “I think politicians need to hear what we think and how we feel.”
Members of the Youth Parliament will soon be borrowing the Commons’ chamber to set the agenda they hope politicians will heed. Young people and crime is on the agenda. We can respond positively to that 14-year old’s plea – by supporting Youth Commissioners.
James Plaskitt, Police Commissioner candidate, Warwickshire