South Yorkshire Police Cadets

Until I became Police and Crime Commissioner, I had no idea that there was an organisation called the South Yorkshire Police Cadets. I came upon them by chance at the Rotherham Show.

As I was walking round the stalls I saw two young people coming towards me looking extremely smart in their police uniforms.

Like most people, one way I note my own ageing is by seeing the police get younger; but these two seemed very young. And indeed they were Teenagers. They were Police Cadets.

I now know that there are over 70 cadets across the county, aged between 15 and 17, meeting on Wednesday nights in central police stations in Barnsley, Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster. Their evenings are spent picking up some useful practical skills – such as basic first aid – and learning about aspects of modern policing.

They also do some drill. They learn how to look smart and work as a team.

What they seem to enjoy most, however, is being able to get out and about. Sometimes this might be with serving officers on their neighbourhood beat somewhere. Or it might be at one of the many shows across the county, being generally helpful to visitors who have questions or get themselves lost.

I recently met all them at the Lifewise Centre in Rotherham. One of them – Kaylen – was presenting a cheque to McMillan nurses for over £500 – money he had raised himself – something that seemed typical of the motivation of all the Cadets: they want to do good in their communities.

It was a good evening. I told them what I do as Commissioner and they told me about the Cadets.

Two things occurred to me.

The first was how fortunate South Yorkshire Police are in having this group of young people at all.

They were from different parts of the county. They came from different social groups. They were ethnically mixed with more than twenty per cent from ethnic minorities. They were male and female.  They were intelligent and thoughtful.

Above all, they were from an age group that many organisations find hard to engage with. They can, therefore, be something of a bridge between the Force and that generation.

Second, not all the Cadets I met will become police officers, though some will, and it would be very good if some from the minority communities did. Most will go on to other jobs, though they may still wear police uniform as volunteer Special Constables.

But the ones that go on to other careers will carry with them an understanding of the police that they can share with others whose knowledge and experience of modern policing is limited. That is important because to do their job well, the police need the public to have some feel for what they do to keep the rest of us safe. As bridge-builders, the Cadets are invaluable.

Not every police force in the country has Cadets. We do in South Yorkshire and we should encourage both these young people and those who make their various activities and commitments possible.