Interacting and engaging with our young people is an important part of policing which is sometimes overlooked. Our day-to-day investigations and enquiries inevitably mean that we are focused on adults, either as victims or perpetrators, but the next generation deserve our attention as well.
We need to do all that we are able to make sure that young people grow up understanding what the police do, feel confident in our ability to keep them safe, and also feel part of a society which creates respect for those who are charged with the responsibility to maintain law and order. Some people say that young people are losing that respect but my experience suggests not. I regularly meet wonderful young people who have so much to offer so I believe our social responsibility is to work with others to harness that young fresh energy and positivity to create a legacy which means we continue to live in one of the safest and most tolerant countries in the world.
Wiltshire Police has a strong history of youth engagement and this last month has seen a number of events where we have been working with our young people to increase their positive interactions with Wiltshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
A few weeks ago we had the presentation of our winning school in the Junior Good Citizen awards, followed by our Volunteer Police Cadet Awards ceremony at Trowbridge Civic Centre. All these opportunities help us to forge links with such an important demographic in our community.
I have a personal interest in this particular area as I became a Cadet at the age of 16, which I used as a stepping stone to become a police officer. My experience as a Cadet taught me discipline, respect and commitment, as well as giving me an insight into the profession which would become my life’s work and passion. Having just passed my 32nd anniversary as a police officer, and in my 35th year with the police service in total, I am proud to say that I still have the same energy and passion for policing as I had all those years ago. We have a new generation of officers and staff who are talented and committed to public service, which is so reassuring as the landscape for policing becomes so much more challenging.
I cannot emphasise enough how strongly I regard our youth engagement. It is vital for the future of policing. The vast majority of our young people will grow up to have some kind of interaction with the police – perhaps they could be at risk of crimes such as Child Sexual Exploitation and need to be able to trust the police, or they may fall in with the wrong crowd and come under pressure to commit crimes, or they may want to join the police service themselves.
We need to be doing all we can to forge these links and relationships now, while they are young, so they are able to turn to us in their hour of need. Whatever budgetary constraints exist for the service, as the Chief Constable for Wiltshire Police I will do all that I am able to maintain our solid and positive relationship with our local communities and continue our commitment to young people. I know our Police and Crime Commissioner is also dedicated to improving our links with young people across Wiltshire and Swindon and this forms a fundamental part of the Police and Crime Plan.
This month will see International Youth Day (12 August) and I know we have a number of youth engagement events in the pipeline, ready to launch at the end of the summer, so will make sure we keep the public informed about these.
On a final note, I wanted to let you know about an event I participated in at the weekend. I was part of a small team from Wiltshire Police who completed the 180-mile UK Police Unity Tour 2016 which was raising money for the Care of Police Survivors charity. My fellow Wiltshire riders, Sergeant Pete Tuite and PC Tracy Davies, were fantastic company and kept me going when the hills got a little steeper!
At the end of the ride we met the families of fallen officers who had died whilst on duty. The commemoration at the National Arboretum was such a moving event; I met David Taylor who was the son of George Taylor. George Taylor was a 27-year-old officer in Strathclyde who was attacked and savagely murdered by two prisoners who had escaped from a local high security prison. He, like so many others, was a true hero.
David talked so vividly about the night his dad went out on duty, kissing him goodnight for the last time when he was only eight years old. He also recounted the moment he was told that his dad was not returning home and how he had felt that anguish every day since. David is now in his 40s with a lovely family but, speaking to him as the tears ran down his cheeks with his voice full of pride as he talked about his hero dad, was one of the most moving moments I have experienced. That is why I will be cycling again next year so that we can show those people in our extended police family that we will remember those who have gone before us and that we still care.
I would like to thank everyone who has donated so far, and urge everyone else to have a look at my justgiving site to find out more about this event and the fantastic work this charity does.