Austria. POLICE officers in southern Austria have gone back to school in an attempt to improve their relationship with local teenagers. But this time they are being taught by the teenagers themselves rather than their teachers.
Six young computer and internet buffs from the Seckau grammar school in Styria have been teaching around 60 local police officers how to use a PC.
Teacher Helmut Winkler, who set up the scheme, said it was aimed at improving pupils' attitude towards the police.
He said: "Local policemen have always been hated by school pupils because the only time they have to deal with them is when they are being checked in discos for ID or being reprimanded. This project is a good way to dissolve that hatred because it puts both sides on an equal level."
The three-day course took place in an internet cafe which the school uses for its information classes, and although Mr Winkler was present, it was the students who were in charge.
Veronika Reumueller, 16, who helped a couple of the police officers find their way around the computers, said: "I really enjoyed taking the class.
We got on very well with the policemen. They were very friendly and really good to work with."
And policeman Dietmar Radauer said he enjoyed it as much as the pupils.
"The course was very good and informative. The students taught us a number of programs on the computer and also showed us ways to move around the internet easily."
He added: "Teenagers are often afraid to approach police officers but these ones weren't. We all got on very well and I would recommend anybody to take a lesson with them."
Police liaison officer Franz Felfer, who helped organise the project, said he was pleased with the results. "The course has had a positive impact. Not only did it give our officers a chance to brush up on their computing skills but it provided us with an opportunity to make contact with the pupils in an open and relaxed atmosphere."
He stressed that the project was as beneficial to some of the officers as it was to the pupils. He said: "There will come a day when all of our station work is done on computers and all of our data is stored on them.
Most of the younger officers learned how to use a computer in school but for the older officers they can pose a problem."
Mr Winkler said he hoped similar projects would be taken up across the country.