Hundreds of disadvantaged young people have transformed their life chances and outlooks thanks to the hard work and determination of officers and staff involved in Nottinghamshire Police’s extensive youth engagement programme.
Youth outreach worker Romel Davis has shared his insight into how this positive and proactive approach to providing more opportunities for young people has helped turned the lives around of children who may have been heading down a troublesome path.
Romel’s role was created as part of a national pilot scheme. Now two years in, he has reflected on the work he has done as well as looking forward to the future benefits of engaging with young people who may not have positive views of the police.
Romel said: “Like many kids who have grown up on an estate, including myself, you don’t always have a lot of opportunities to do things.
“My role is focused on working with kids between the ages of 10 and 18 who are either vulnerable, socially excluded or have been involved in crime in order to raise aspirations, build confidence and provide positive opportunities for them.
“When I first started, one of my tasks was to expand the police cadet scheme into communities where we had not previously had much of a presence, particularly in disadvantaged areas where we felt the cadets could play a pivotal role in being an outlet for young people.
“Working closely with the Citizens in Policing Department, we opened cadet bases in areas such as Bulwell as well as community centres and even one in a mosque.”
Romel saw Bulwell as a key target area for a cadet base to support young people. He now runs the base named after murdered teenager Lyrico Steede, who was from Bulwell.
The widening of the cadet programme has led to creating a more inclusive and open opportunities for young people to engage with the police.
Romel said: “We’ve seen the cadets become more representative of the communities Nottinghamshire Police serves in the last two years, going from eight percent of members being from Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background to 23 percent.
“Within certain cultures, there is a negative stigma that still exists and some people are likely to run into problems with the police, which we know.
“Running programmes like the cadets in Nottinghamshire in areas where there may be a negative view of police has been hugely beneficial – it’s given young people the opportunities that they really need.”
In an interview as part of the documentary, Notts Police: Operation 2020, Romel was joined by Cadet of the Year, Theo Dore.
Theo, who attends Bulwell’s cadet base, has turned his attitude to schooling around thanks to a newfound sense of right and wrong developed during his time with the cadets.
Romel added: “Structured sessions within the cadets are designed to be fun and engaging, with a view to helping young people understand that the police are on their side and not to be feared.
“Ideally, we’d like to see people who had never seen the police as a viable career opportunity for them to be inspired and feel as though this is a realistic aspiration for them.
“The cadet programme shows children that there is so much more to policing than just arresting people and we are so grateful to all the officers and staff who have helped us craft and deliver these sessions.”
Theo Dore, who won the Cadet of the Year Award at Nottinghamshire Police’s annual award, has completed his first year in the Cadet Programme.
Theo has dreams of becoming a dog handler at Nottinghamshire Police and the force surprised him with a visit to the Dog Section as part of his prize for winning.
Faye Dore, Theo’s mum from Bulwell, said: “At school, he (Theo) was always getting into trouble, I was constantly getting phone calls and I was on edge about what he was going to do. He was even going to get kicked out of school.
“I took him to places like swimming and karate but he always seemed to still mess about there and not listen but when he went to cadets, I couldn’t believe that he actually started listening, doing what he was told and was excited to tell me about what he done that day.
“It sounds strange but he’s actually a different child, I think. When he goes there he actually wants to get up, get ready and go.
“It’s like he’s really matured.”
Eleven-year-old Theo was also interviewed as part of the documentary.
He said: “Every week different units come and visit us like the army, the police firearms officers and the people who pilot the police helicopters.
“It’s good because it teaches you about the police and what not to do in life. It teaches you that the police aren’t just there to arrest people, they’re there to help.
“One of my favourite things is that we learned about the dog unit and that’s my favourite because when I am older I want to be in the police and work with the dogs.”
Alongside the cadets, there are a number of initiatives that Nottinghamshire Police runs as part of its youth engagement programme.
Romel explained: “Theo is an incredible success story. He’s achieved this turnaround through hard work and we couldn’t be any prouder of him.
“But the cadet programme makes up a small part of the force’s work to ensure that young people are engaged with positively.
“We have dozens of youth programmes set up across the county that range from sporting events to career workshops to activities around Black History Month.
“We engage with hundreds if not thousands of children every year in so many ways and I’d encourage any parents or young people who want to find out more about the schemes we run to get in touch.
“We’ve had more than 100 referrals for supporting young people over the last two years and enjoyed some incredible successes and I look forward to seeing how this grows in the future.”
If you have a young person you are concerned about please email positiveengagement@Nottinghamshire.pnn.police.uk