Strengthening of police officers’ communication and co-operation skills in their work with children”
“Strengthening of police officers’ communication and co-operation skills in their work with children” was a pilot project that was implemented by CAF with the support of OSCE Presence in Albania.
The main goal of this pilot project was to strengthen police officers’ communication and cooperation skills in their work with children (and the community). Its main objectives were: a) To enhance police officers’ knowledge and skills on effective techniques of communication and co-operation with children, and b) To help police officers get closer to and establish good relationships with children and community in order to build trust and strengthen co-operation.
Project beneficiaries and target areas: The project was implemented in the Librazhd District and benefited directly 15 police officers and about 240 school children in the Polis, Dorёz, Skroska and Hototlisht schools. It also benefited indirectly about 40 police officers of the Librazhd District Police Department, 1500 school children as well as the teachers and administrators of the target schools.
Project Activities and timeframe: Based on our participatory approach, all the activities of the project were implemented in a very close cooperation of CAF and OSCE representatives with police officers, students, teachers, school directors, regional directorate of education, and district police department as well as other important stakeholders. Project implementation started in November 2010 and was successfully completed by mid December 2010.
The project included the following activities: Awareness-raising meetings: The project started with awareness-raising meetings at the Librazhd District Police Department, District Directorate of Education and four target primary and secondary schools. Besides presentation of the project’s purpose, objectives, and main activities, it was emphasized the importance of their active involvement in the whole project implementation process.
Preparation and distribution of posters and of police officers’ and children’s leaflets: Another important element of the project, which facilitated the awareness-raising process and the project implementation was preparation and distribution of posters and leaflets, which contained essential information on effective techniques of communication and co-operation with children as well as messages on the importance of police duties and responsibilities toward protection of children’s life, rights and dignity.
Training of community/regional police officers on effective techniques of communication and cooperation with children: A one-day training of police officers on effective techniques of communication and co-operation with children based on Children’s Rights as well as on the community democratic policing philosophy was conducted by two CAF experts on 30 November 2010. It was organized with a very active participation of 15 police officers (12 representatives from the Librazhd Police Department and 3 from the Elbasan region). The training was mainly focused on the following aspects:
Effective communication with children and its importance to building trust and strengthening communication and cooperation with them.
Establishment of a direct relationship with children based on mutual trust and respect.
Important elements that should be taken into consideration when communicating or dealing with children:
Punishment and its negative impact on children’s behavior
How to free a child from an imposed role
Cases of success in our work with children.
A six step-process of solving problems with children
The training and the new theoretical concepts were associated with real life/practical examples in order to increase understanding among the police officers and facilitate their application or effective use in their everyday work. The Power Point presentation by the CAF experts was accompanied by free discussions, pair- and group work, case studies, analysis and presentations as well as role-plays. “We liked the way in which the training was organized and highly appreciated the way we were encouraged to actively participate in all the sessions”, said one of the police officers. “We learned very helpful techniques that will definitely bring about improvements in our communication with children”, added another participant.
School-based meetings with school children in the target schools led by the selected police officers and supported by CAF representatives: The training of police officers was followed by their direct meetings with about 240 school children in the four project target schools. The meetings contained police officers’ presentation, children’s questions and police officers’ related responses, exchange of positive and negative experiences with police as well as free discussions on various issues related to children’s safety and rights and police officers’ duties toward them.
In their presentation, the police officers talked about why and how they had joined the police as well as some of their main duties and responsibilities toward children and their communities. A variety of children’s questions were carefully answered and a number of issues and concerns were addressed. During the meeting, the children were encouraged to share some of their best and worst experiences with the police. They were also advised on when and how they should contact the police in case they needed their help. The police officers shared a few phone numbers and encouraged them not to hesitate to call in any case of need. This was highly appreciated by the children and made them feel much closer to each other.
Based on children’s and police officers’ feedback, those meetings had a great contribution to the improvement of communication, understanding and relationships among them. “We had never thought of taking the courage to talk to a police officer”, said a boy in one of the schools “let alone ask so many questions and share our concerns with them”. “The police officers were so open and ready to answer all kinds of questions, what made us feel that they really care about our feelings, concerns and wellbeing”, said a girl in another school.
Organized visits of students from the project target schools to the Regional Police Department: In order to create a better understanding among children and direct links with the environment and the police representatives, 34 students and three teachers from the target schools accompanied by the CAF and OSCE representatives as well as the related police officers were given the opportunity to visit the Librazhd District Police Department. They were shown around by their area police officers and were introduced to the police structure and the main systems that they had lately installed in the framework of meeting the European standards. The children were also introduced to a number of duties and responsibilities of the main offices as well as to the main difficulties encountered in their work. “We had such a warm reception by the police officers and their director at the Police Department that we totally changed our opinion about them, said a student. “After this visit I feel that the situation has changed indeed and, if all the police officers are like the ones that we have just met, we can really trust them”.
A summary of the project methodology, results and impact: The project used a participatory approach in the whole process of needs assessment, problem analysis, project designing, implementation and monitoring. The project was designed based on the results of a number of meetings and consultations with student government representatives and other school children, teachers, school directors, parents, local government officials and other stakeholders.
The successful implementation of project activities produced very positive results, which contributed to the achievement of the set objectives and overall goal. Participation of police officers in the training, introduction to the new effective techniques of communication and co-operation with children and application of the theoretical concepts into real cases of their every-day work have contributed to the enrichment of police officers’ knowledge and improvement of their communication and co-operation skills. This will certainly increase their ability to solve problems with children and even prevent future conflicts or any other undesired behaviours of social or legal consequences.
Involvement of primary and secondary school children in the awareness-raising activities, their active participation in the school meetings with the police officers as well as in the visits to the district police department have contributed to the enrichment of children’s knowledge on their right to protection from abuse, discrimination and exploitation as well as a better understanding of the important role of police officers on the protection of children’s life, rights, dignity and well-being.
Active involvement of primary and secondary school children, police officers, teachers, school directors and other stakeholders in the awareness-raising process and in the whole project implementation has increased understanding among them, improved communication and relationships, and created a feeling of mutual trust and respect. In addition, the direct communication among school children and police officers as well as police authorities, learning about their role and responsibilities, sharing of ideas and opinions, of positive and negative experiences and provision of respectful responses of police officers to children’s questions and concerns have highly contributed to a better image of police not only among children, but also among their parents, teachers and other community members.