Rainham teenager urges Havering Police to work with young people

Student at St Edward's Elijah Ssempa interviewed Borough Commander Jason Gwillim about how to improv

Student at St Edward's Elijah Ssempa interviewed Borough Commander Jason Gwillim about how to improve the relationship between young people and the police. - Credit: Elijah Ssempa

A pupil is urging the borough’s police force to continue its efforts to improve communications with young people.

Elijah Ssempa, 17, of Rainham, researched creative policing solutions to improve relationships between young people and the police for more than a year as part of a school project.

The St Edward’s Church of England School and Sixth Form College pupil began his research as part of his International Baccalaureate, but his interest in the topic saw him go the extra mile.

Last summer, Elijah met with three safer schools’ officers including Pc Wayne Hopkins and he interviewed borough commander Jason Gwillim during a series of events organised by the Havering Junior Citizens campaign.

Elijah, who studies at St Edward’s in London Road, Romford, told the Recorder: “I noticed around me and on social media there are a lot of negative attitudes towards the police and I wanted to find out why.”

The student said he had found this negative attitude “upsetting” because he said the police are here “to help people”.

“I wanted to understand the police perspective on how we can bridge that gap between young people and police in the borough,” he added.

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The teenager was also “shocked” to find out how busy officers are, but persevered in organising interviews.

His meeting with Ch Supt Gwillim was fruitful and Elijah was able to identify three pillars to consolidate the relationship between young people and the police.

These include mutual respect, meetings through workshops and events and better communications, including on social media.

For Elijah, communications and social media play a crucial role in establishing that contact.

“Social media is a means to communicate with young people because loads of us have access to it,” he said.

Having now completed his school project, Elijah is calling on the force to implement the three pillars to allow young people to build links with the police.

Responding to his call, Ch Supt Gwillim said: “It was good to meet Elijah and I was very interested in the research that he is conducting.

“The three areas that he has identified are sensible and will go some way to developing relationships between the police and young people. The increase in our commitment to schools officers will be a key element to deliver our work here.”