When we speak to teenagers about the police they sometimes tell us that they don’t trust them. Some kids feel that the police target them unfairly and there is a “them against us” mentality.

But teenagers have also told us that they want to see more police out and about to make them feel safer.

So it’s complicated. But did you know loads of teenagers across the country are changing their minds about the police by becoming a Volunteer Police Cadet?

It’s an amazing way to make friends, learn loads of new skills and it sets you up for all sorts of different career options afterwards – not just in the police, but tons of different industries will be wowed by your volunteering skills and new-found confidence.

So if you want your CV to stand out from the crowd while having awesome adventures and helping others – Police Cadets might be for you!

What is it?

The Volunteer Police Cadets programme provides an opportunity for young people aged 13-17 to get involved in activities which support community policing and learn about responsible citizenship.

As a Cadet, you’ll undergo training and take part in voluntary work with the police in your local community. You’ll develop key life skills and enhance your opportunities for further education, training and employment – whether this is within the police service or another profession.

So what’s it like?

It’s very inclusive. There is no one they’ve said no to. Some young people have even been in trouble with the police, but they were still welcomed – and haven’t been in trouble with the police since!

Every week is different. Sometimes they will be working towards their first aid training, other times they will be tidying care homes for the elderly or working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

On the night we visited, the cadets were practising skills they would use in a real-life police situation. Two of the older cadets pretended to be involved in a knife crime and the rest of the cadets had to seal off the area, find the weapon and interview witnesses.

What do they say about it?

We spoke to four cadets called Callum, Riess, Mafalda and Sophie. They’re aged between 13-17.

Callum said he’s always wanted to join the police and becoming a cadet has given him a sense of community and pride.

On the other hand, being a cadet has changed Riess’ mind about the police.

“I was scared of the police, I found them intimidating. But being in the cadets means I’ve met more of them, it shows a different side to them, a more human side. Now I’m less intimidated and scared by them and have a much better view of them.”

And he’s excited to use his skills once he leaves – there are so many opportunities within the police for him to choose from. Dog handlers, driving patrol cars, solving crimes, public order work – there’s so much more to policing than meets the eye.

“With the police you can do what you want. There are so many opportunities, you can do anything after your two probationary years the world is your oyster.”

Confidence is yours

And it’s not just new skills. All these cadets feel they’ve changed for the better as people.

Callum told us it was nerve-wracking to start but it’s built up a lot of confidence in him.

Mafalda said, “Nowadays I just don’t hesitate to take up a challenge. I put myself out there all the time. I’m not afraid to raise my hand or volunteer for things.”

All round support

Sophie told us how being a volunteer cadet has given her the confidence to come out of her shell and make new friends. But the staff also give her emotional support.

As Riess puts it “I know I could go to anyone here for help or if there was something I was worried about. It’s a great feeling.”

How much?

You’re uniform is free. You pay about £2.50 a week, but they will consider you whatever your financial situation.

How do I get involved?

Almost all local police forces have run a volunteer cadet programme. They’re often on social media, so search for them there.

Or visit their website and search your local area there.

If you’re looking to make new friends, do some good in your community and make your CV irresistible to employers, give the police cadets a go. For these teenagers, it was life-changing.