This research project, a partnership between the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the PSHE Association, highlights the significant benefits of enabling training officers to deliver lessons in schools on issues such as drugs and the law.
Can police officers build relationships and trust with students in schools? Using a clustered-block-randomised design and a three-wave panel with 13-15-year-old students from 81 schools across England and Wales, we test the impact of officers getting involved in school education, where they meet young people in their space, and present sessions designed to engage and encourage discussion.
The findings of this first-of-its-kind randomised controlled trial highlight one way to build positive relations between police and young people. Policing by consent underpins policing in the UK, and interactions with police officers are ‘teachable moments’ through which people learn about the law, its enforcement, and their own role and position within society. Positive contact helps to engender trust and legitimacy, and negative contact helps to damage people’s relationship with the law. Depending on the quantity and quality of people’s direct and indirect experiences with the law, teenagers and young adults can develop a healthy relationship with the law based on mutual understanding and respect, or an unhealthy relationship characterised by animosity and mistrust. The former has long been associated with more support for the law and legal compliance, while the latter has been shown to encourage cynicism, disobedience, and defiance.