A group of Black teenagers have spent two weeks ‘behind the scenes’ of the Met as part of an innovative internship-style programme to encourage young people from under-represented communities to consider a career in policing.
The ‘Elevated Aspirations’ programme returned for a second year in July 2023, offering even more young people the chance to get involved in exciting new opportunities such as the chance to observe dynamic public order training at the Met’s dedicated centre in Gravesend.
A cohort of 21 young people, all aged around 17 and from south London educational establishments, were offered ten days of placements across a wide range of Met units, lectures from top Black professionals in the criminal justice field, and will now get follow up one-on-one mentoring.
The majority of students are in their first year in the sixth form at St Thomas the Apostle School and Sixth Form College in Nunhead, and also attend Southbank University Academy and Haberdashers Aske Hatcham College. Their sessions were facilitated by officers and staff, which enabled them to gain a valuable insight into the varied experiences working for the Met offers.
The whistle-stop tour of the organisation included visits to the bases of officers from homicide teams, firearms, forensics, the marine unit, mounted branch, the Territorial Support Group, and the 999 call control centre in Lambeth, where high-profile major events such as the Coronation are managed.
They got the chance to handle specialist equipment, try on kit, take part in role-plays on stop and search, shadow detectives on an investigation, and visit the courts at the Old Bailey. New sessions for 2023 also included a visit with Kent Police and a close up look at how officers deal with protestors while seeing training at Gravesend.
A select group also got the opportunity to quiz the Commissioner face to face at a special meeting – followed with a surprise trip behind the police gates at Downing Street, allowing them to pose for pictures in front of the famous black door of No.10!
After gaining first-hand knowledge of the realities of policing, the close of the two weeks was marked with a special ‘graduation’ ceremony for parents and supporters on Friday 21 July.
Awa Amon, who has just turned 17, decided to sign up for this year’s programme after an open day run at her school sparked her interest. She said: “When you get an insight like we have with this you see there’s actually a lot of good officers, especially when they’re helping us out by dedicating their time .” Awa previously wanted to be a criminal defence lawyer but her aspiration has now shifted towards policing. “I’m looking forward to joining the Met one day in the future,” she said.
Niquel Emmanuel Mettle, 17, said that he did not have a particular interest in policing before participating, but that the past two weeks had really opened his eyes. He said: “Policing wasn’t my first choice for careers but I’m definitely more interested in considering it now than I was before.”
The Elevated Aspirations initiative is the brainchild of long-serving Met PC Nsikan Etuk and educational consultant Doreen Sinclair-McCollin, director of Elevated Minds (EM). EM has been delivering teenage-led, stop/search and unconscious bias training sessions to new Met recruits since 2019.
It aims to contribute to enhanced public service, trust and confidence through generating legitimacy for the Met and finding new ways for it to engage with minority communities.
As a direct result of last year’s programme, three young people have taken the necessary steps to find out about the route to their chosen specialism within the MPS.
One young man attended the Public Services Course at City and Islington College, and is due to begin the Met’s apprenticeship route in September 2024. Another two young people have been involved with training new recruits, participating in advertising their interest in joining the MPS and meeting with the MPS’ Learning and Development team in preparation for taking initial tests.
PC Etuk, who has been in the Met for 20 years and is part of the community engagement team for Southwark and Lambeth boroughs, explained:
“I wanted the youngsters to obtain a richer insight into the roles of the police through doing the programme, as well as to break down barriers and create more positive connections between officers and young people. Last time only a small percentage of the starter group wanted to join but by the end, a majority expressed an interest in a future career in policing, which was really encouraging, and we are hoping for similarly positive results this year.”
Doreen Sinclair-McCollin, director of Elevated Minds, said:
“Elevated Aspirations aims to contribute to a culture change within the Met Police, to build bridges and strengthen relationships between police and the young, under-represented community members taking part. We are delighted to be back for a second year running and hope this will act as a step toward helping the Met meet its aspiration to increase the percentage of recruits from under-represented communities and to change ‘generations of history’ between police and black communities.”
North Kent’s Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Shaun White, also had a very positive message for the young people he engaged with during their visit to the North Kent police station in Northfleet. Whilst there the teenagers got to try on special kit and a talk from armed response team officers, as well as the chance for a tour custody to learn about the process of check-in and see the cells for themselves.
Chief Supt White said: “Kent Police partnered with the Met to support the Elevated Aspirations programme, which focuses on creating opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds. This enabled them to meet our officers, and experience a snapshot of day-to-day life in a policing environment.
“It is hoped the programme participants opt to continue forward into a policing career in Kent, London, or beyond. Either way those taking part will leave the course equipped with new skills that will open more opportunities for their future.
“To anyone looking to embark on a career with the police, Kent Police welcomes diversity and brings opportunity to everybody. To the participants whom I had the privilege of meeting, you can be anything you want to be. Don’t let anything hold you back in life.”
(Source: Met Police)