Officers helping children and young people through trauma
Groups of youths hanging about the streets are generally thought to be up to no good. But what if they were seen in a different light and approached as young people struggling to deal with trauma in their lives?
Essex Police is training its officers and partners to engage with young people in a new way.
A new training programme has been put together to raise awareness of the opportunities to guide young people through trauma, away from a negative lifestyle and on to a more positive future.
The three-day course focused on motivational interviewing and trauma informed policing for 100 people who have close links with the county’s youth.
The work received £20,000 funding as part of the Violence and Vulnerability Programme established by the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) and partners across Essex. The programme funds projects to reduce the risk of young and vulnerable people being groomed into a life of crime and help those affected by gangs to take the steps to leave.
Jan Bloomfield, Youth Justice and Antisocial Behaviour Manager for Essex Police, said: “Many children have a hard time at home or in their communities and do not grow up in loving, stable households. Therefore, they don’t receive the love and care they need to grow up happy and healthy. Sometimes, this results in potentially traumatic events that can have negative and lasting effects on both the health and the wellbeing of the child. These potentially traumatic events are called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, to parental divorce, or substance abuse by a parent.”
“This is about raising awareness of the trauma in young people’s lives and sharing the research around trauma. Most children who come into contact with the police have probably suffered multiple traumas in their lives. This is about being aware of that, so that we take a trauma informed approach to how we talk to them. It’s making changes like when we come across a group of young people hanging around, asking if they are ok rather than starting by saying ‘what are you up to’.
“For children going into custody or watching their parents be arrested, that is traumatic. It’s about recognising where children may be suffering trauma. Children who have suffered trauma are going to react differently to the police. If you recognise that, you are less likely to have conflict.
“The other part of the course is about motivational interviewing skills. When working with young people who are vulnerable or violent, we want to be able to motivate them to make a change and leave that lifestyle behind. We are sharing the skills needed when talking to young people on the streets to motivate them to change their behaviour and decisions.”
Essex Police’s 20 new Children and Young Persons Officers will also go through the course and it is hoped it will become part of the culture of policing in the future.
Jan said: “In a perfect world, we would want all officers and partners to have this training. These young people in gangs are massively vulnerable and are committing the most dangerous crimes. We have to get as experienced and skilled as we can if we are going to make headway with it. It’s about recognising their vulnerability and not just assuming they are a nasty child or offender, they are victims.”
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Tackling serious violence and protecting young and vulnerable people are both key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan. We are working hard in Essex to tackle violence in our communities and are well ahead of other areas of the country. We have already created a Violence and Vulnerability Unit, have invested in a range of activities for young people at risk and strengthened our enforcement activities. We are investing in activities and interventions that stop the vulnerable being drawn into a life of crime and help those already involved to exit gangs safely.”