Editorial: Time to welcome policing to the big picture

Ravi Chandiramani
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The values of Every Child Matters are about to tread fresh ground and penetrate the vocation of policing.

As we reveal this week, the ranks of the Metropolitan Police will receive training early next year on integrating the five Every Child Matters outcomes into its work (see news, p1).

It's a hugely encouraging move by Britain's largest police force. It means the police will begin to join the range of professional groups in adopting a common framework of thinking with regard to the young. Of course, the police has to deal with criminal behaviour, but the training puts the onus on prevention rather than punishment. Its focus is on the potential, not criminalisation, of young people and on maximising chances, not reprimanding antisocial behaviour.

The training, which is likely to place an emphasis on staying safe, will acknowledge the fact that teenagers are more often victims of crime than perpetrators. This has come into sharp focus since London has become the scene of many of the high-profile youth-on-youth killings this year. The initiative also marks a leap in attitudes from a Metropolitan Police poster campaign last year, called "spot the difference". Those posters depicted a series of before and after images to demonstrate how local policing is changing to create safer neighbourhoods. One of the "before" pictures was set in a park and showed a woman pushing a toddler in a buggy. In the background three teenagers and a dog were sitting on a picnic table. In the "after" picture they were airbrushed out - the message being that neighbourhoods are safer without the presence of young people. But the success of the Met's Every Child Matters training depends on whether it gets treated as an add-on or becomes embedded in the culture of policing and the thinking of every officer. Impact will be minimal if only a handful of staff buy into and embrace its philosophy.

The motivations for entering the police are foremost to keep the peace and enforce the law. The Met's initiative provides a great opportunity to strengthen trust between the police and young people and to reshape our society's attitudes towards its young.

However, it requires other professionals working with children and young people - from schools to youth offending teams - to partner with the police and welcome them to the Every Child Matters agenda.

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