Bridge builders in blue are a force for change

14th March 2008 at 00:00
Working together: the police officer. PC Dave Inglis talks to William Stewart about his work in a Birmingham secondary school

What have been the biggest benefits of your presence in school?

Over the first four or five months of me being at Small Heath School, there was a 25 per cent drop in crime around the immediate area. We have also seen a positive change in attitude towards police officers.

The police in most areas have become quite detached from young people because we usually only come into contact with them as victims of crime or as offenders. This has been a way of building bridges.

How has it helped the school?

It has made pupils feel more confident when they transfer from primary school. It makes the school feel like a safer environment.

Some of my work is on drugs awareness, which means that, rather than a teacher reading from a book, I can tell pupils about the practicalities. I also help find solutions to behaviour problems. A restorative justice scheme is in the pipeline.

What have been the biggest obstacles to the partnership?

Initially, people's perceptions. There was some suspicion along the lines of "What are the police doing here?" But that was overcome with letters home explaining that this was nothing to worry about. I have also been around to answer questions at the end of the school day.

Were there any surprises?

How quickly I was accepted into the school. It was a culture shock at first. Pupils would say, "Why are all police cocky?" and I'd reply, "Why do young people call police officers pigs?" We both saw the other side.

What have you learnt?

That the bad image of young people as portrayed by the media only applies to a very small minority.

How do you respond to concerns that police in schools criminalise pupils?

It is about doing the opposite: not putting them through the justice system when the school has good disciplinary procedures in place.

It's more about targeting people who might cause problems for pupils outside school.

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