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Budding bobbies at two Merseyside schools have officially enrolled as mini British Transport Police officers.
The pupils, at West Kirby Residential School and Pleasant Street Primary School completed an intensive training period which saw them issued with notebooks, warrant cards and high visibility vests before a passing out ceremony in front of friends and family.
The scheme, the first of its kind for BTP, was chosen to pilot in Wirral and Liverpool, and was enthusiastically welcomed by all the children and teaching staff who took part.
Over a period of six weeks pupils at West Kirby Residential School which caters for children and young people with complex special educational needs and disabilities, were issued with uniforms and took part in mock activities including riots, drug and knife searches and arrests.
As part of their enrolment, children at Pleasant Street were invited to the police station for a tour which included a visit to the custody suite and cells and a session with firearms officers and police dogs.
Inspector Jayne Lewis, who came up with the idea for the pilot and devised the 'Prevent' programme said: "We can't believe the level of engagement from these children. They have been so keen to learn. Of course visiting the custody suite and cells and the more practical activities were popular, but even the lesson-based activities have been met with incredible enthusiasm. We've even had some kids say they've now set their sights on becoming an officer themselves in the future."
But aside from the fun element, the project has a serious role to play as Inspector Lewis explains:
"The Prevent programme is designed to do just that - prevent youngsters from outside influences that can lead them into danger or crime and is delivered using the key principles of Engage, Divert and Develop using a positive approach.
"By talking to the children about the law and the role of the police not only are we helping them to become good citizens from an early age and to think about others - we are also helping to protect them by talking about threats to their safety - whether it be online grooming, gangs, drugs, the dangers of trespass, stranger danger, hate crime or bullying. We're keeping it relevant by broaching these issues in a way they can understand.
"Also, key to this is emphasising the consequences of breaking the law and the effect of crime on the victim - all in language they can understand that's appropriate for their age."
PC Leah Hunt, who has been training up the mini officers, issuing kit and leading the lessons, said: "The pupils we met were of different ages and needs so I imagined getting them to engage would be challenging but we needn't have worried. It has been a great success.
"The mini officers were keen to learn about our force and what we do. We explained the different policing roles including the Neighbourhood Policing Team, Response, Firearms and the Operational Support Unit. "We also discussed the different ranks and what they mean, levels of promotion and what was needed to qualify so we could incorporate their education and explain about the policing degree.
"It's important they understand that we're here to protect them and not fear us, so if they ever need help they know not to be afraid to approach us."
Neil Verdin, headteacher at Pleasant Street Primary School said: "The Mini-Police Programme has been an exciting and informative experience for our pupils. They have developed a 'hands on' understanding of different police roles and gained a valuable insight into how the Police support the community. I am sure this programme has inspired some of our pupils to contemplate a career where they contribute positively to our society."