Young people have their say on policing in Wiltshire

By Alastair Salmon

Wiltshire’s Youth Commission are providing a nuanced voice on how the police could develop its relationship the community

In collaboration with a group of young people aged between 15 and 24, the police in Wiltshire and Swindon are seeking to better represent the community’s needs, including mental health education for police and a nuanced approach to monitoring child exploitation online.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Philip Wilkinson has the job of working with the police and young people to ensure they deliver what residents of Wiltshire want from their police force: “it’s bringing policing very, very close to our residents.”

We can help build the confidence that sadly is lacking with many police forces

Philip Wilkinson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon

There are around 30 young people involved in the Youth Commission, and Philip says the aims are not just to find out their concerns but also to collaborate on his Police and Crime plan.

“It’s very easy for the police and older generations just to tell young people what we think they should have and then deliver it for them; what I’ve been trying to do is find out what their real concerns are.”

The Commission’s suggestions placed a lot of focus on mental health education as a primary concern is the lack of training the police have to deal with individuals living with conditions such as schizophrenia. Philip says there are plans to introduce more training for police to deal with these situations and ensure a mental health nurse is available in their call centres 24/7 for those that need it. “We have had instances where we’ve taken people with mental health issues into custody, and that should not happen; that’s part of the training.”

In addition to this, the Commission has outlined more up to date issues that children face online as the covid-19 lockdown has presented different types of abuse young people experience on the internet. The intention is to double the number of officers who monitor child wellbeing online using the feedback from the Commission.

Philip says the Youth Commission are mainly optimistic about policing in the community but is seeking a more empathetic, collaborative relationship. “They want to see more police, and they want them to engage more proactively, but in a kinder, more sensitive way.” Furthermore, they indicated a need for longer-lasting support for victims from police rather than just during the critical incident.

The Police and Crime Commissioner will be working closely with the Youth Commission and is planning to expand the operation to build a closer relationship with the community, something Philip believes is essential. “We can help build the confidence that sadly is lacking with many police forces, I would say every police force, and it’s the same in Wiltshire. We need to improve how the police interact with the public so we can rebuild the trust that is sadly lacking right now.”