Cops' success spurs expansion

By Martha McKenzie-Minifie

Another police officer is being added to the Cops in Schools programme to work in two Papakura high schools.

Five dedicated police officers have been based since last year in 10 schools in South Auckland, an area with one of the country's highest rates of violent crime.

Police chiefs introduced the system to build up trust with youngsters and tackle youth crime before it happens.

A year after its launch, the scheme's early success has seen similar projects started in the Far North and, last week, in Hamilton.

And Rosehill College and Papakura High have now joined up.

John Minto, chairman of the Quality Public Education Coalition, said his lobby group still held concerns about the programme.

"It's too easy for kids in this situation to be used as pawns in what are adult issues."

But he said police had had a low level of involvement in schools for years, so many people had not noticed a big change.

Manurewa High student support manager Hardy McLean said its constable, Doug Eruera, had had a big impact, particularly in combating bullying. Fights in nearby War Memorial Park had reduced "majorly".

He said Mr Eruera worked with the student support team to mediate in tense situations and helped to curb truancy.

Mr Eruera said he had arrested only one student in the past three terms, after a knife was pulled on a teacher.

"I'm not here to lock kids up or anything like that but when time and place dictates it, I'll put my 'police uniform' back on," said Mr Eruera, who has been in the force for three years and divides his time between Manurewa High and James Cook High.

A sample weekly schedule for the Cops in Schools programme provided by the police shows the role includes attending sports activities, working directly with families and attending schools' disciplinary committee meetings.

After-school assignments include patrolling parks to avert a planned fight and following up reports of youths dealing in drugs.

The youth and community services manager for Counties-Manukau police, Senior Sergeant Mike Fulcher, said early feedback on the Cops in Schools initiative had been positive but it was hard to quantify the impact of the constables involved until a review planned for next month was complete.

"If their job is to head trouble off at the pass, how can you say, 'Well how many would have come in the door had they not been there?'"

* Helping hands

Constable Tai Benedito at Mangere College and Southern Cross Campus.

Constable Bryan Ward at Otahuhu College and McAuley High School.

Constable Sel Seluone at Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate and Tangaroa College.

Constable Doug Eruera at Manurewa High School and James Cook High School.

A new officer is to be appointed to fill the post at Aorere College and De La Salle College left vacant by Constable Danny Hodson.

- NZ Herald

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