Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Youth Crime Conference.

A really good day at Twickenham Stadium performing our forum play to local schools. As last year the work was received really well. Andy, Michael, Emma, Katie and Sophie played brilliantly and it was very clear even the toughest group of year 10s were quickly engaged and enjoying the interactions.

Having the police in the room with us whilst we work is a real added bonus - particularly as Katie, who jokered everything on her own this year allowing me the opportunity to stand aside and watch what was happening, soon found a way of involving them in debate with the teenagers. In turn the police seemed to soften and one or two were even encouraged up onto stage to demonstrate how they would handle a difficult situation or conversation. Great charm. Great good humour.

It made me realise that often the police simply get the tone wrong when dealing with young people. As I walked round some of the other workshops I was aware that a 'mock matey' language and sense of 'being on the level' were proving in many cases to alienate the groups rather than encourage them. It's a tough call because ultimately the law is the law and there's little room for a questioning of that authority, skepticism or genuine debate in these interactions, but occasionally there's the implicit belief that schools and parents have let kids down and that it's only the 'straight talking' police who can communicate, which rather than providing a forum, comes across as either another form of 'talking down' or as a patronising 'I understand where you're coming from' concession to anti-social behaviour. The key must be to listen very carefully in order to explain procedure and pratice in challenging Socratic rather than victimising didactic terms.

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