You are a police officer in uniform, untrained in handling a gun. One of your colleagues from the tactical firearms unit has been wounded and is lying on the floor having dropped their gun. A criminal is nearby. What do you do next? Run and grab the gun and threaten to shoot? Kick the gun away and go to your colleague? Or stay back and call for backup?
This is one of several scenarios put to five sixth formers during a visit to Aylesbury Police Station in Buckinghamshire as part of the first 11 Million Takeover Day, which took place on 23 November.
The initiative, organised by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, involved young people going out to a range of companies, charities and public sector organisations to give their views on how they should be run.
The sixth formers in Aylesbury are part of a group of 14 visiting police stations across the county. Buckinghamshire police commander, chief superintendent Paul Tinnion, says that they became involved in the day because they were keen to hear young people’s views. “The force has a new youth strategy that is about developing a high quality relationship with young people,” Tinnion says. “Taking part in the 11 Million Takeover Day enables us to show that we are listening to what young people say.”
In the morning, each of the sixth formers is paired up with a senior manager at the station. However, Tinnion is keen for them not to simply carry out a shadowing exercise. “I asked my senior managers to, when they could, ask the young people what they thought, and what they would do in various circumstances.” he says.
For Jenny, a 17-year-old pupil from Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School, and David, a 16-year-old pupil from Aylesbury Grammar, this involved advising one senior manager to spend £1,000 on extra overtime during the run up to Christmas.
“They asked us about allocating overtime on weekends coming up to Christmas. We said they should do extra overtime on the weekend of 15 December as a lot of schools will have broken up and people will be having their Christmas parties,” says David.
For the second part of the day the sixth formers, who are all interested in careers in the police, are given the opportunity to talk to staff from different parts of the force including the CCTV team, the team responsible for dealing with public order during incidents such as riots, and the community and diversity team.
The shootout scenario is put to the sixth formers during a session with firearms officer Andy Pickwick. Some of the visitors go for phoning for backup but most opt to pick up the gun and defend their colleague.
Pickwick explains that there is no correct answer but that instead the scenario is intended to get people to think about the situations they could be faced with and the split-second decisions that have to be made.
Anne Jones, an inspector working on the neighbourhood policing project in Aylesbury, says that the idea of neighbourhood policing teams is to reach different parts of the community. She admits that this can be hard in relation to young people, particularly given their negative portrayal in the media which can lead to some parts of the community making even those who behave well feel unwelcome. This, coupled with many teenagers’ negative views of the police, makes the group difficult for the force to engage with.
“Key to what we are trying to do is to deal with quality of life issues and listen to the whole community,” Jones says. “But when you have public meetings, do young people come? No,” she says.
Jones, who organised the day for the sixth formers, says she saw the 11 Million Takeover initiative as an opportunity to encourage young people to get more involved in their neighbourhood groups and to break down barriers with the police.
Although unable to “take over” in the strictest sense due to the law enforcement nature of police work, the sixth formers believe the day has given them a greater understanding of what the police are about.
“It’s given me a big insight into what goes on rather than what you see on the TV,” says Jenny.
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This article appeared in the 13 December issue under the headline “The force is with them”