Pictures: Longest-running Met police cadet group celebrate 25 years in Barking and Dagenham
PUBLISHED: 12:09 15 May 2014 | UPDATED: 12:30 15 May 2014
For 25 years, the Metropolitan Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) have given often vulnerable young people a chance to become a force for good in their community.
Barking and Dagenham, which can lay claim to having the longest-running cadet service in the Metropolitan Police Service, has seen thousands of teenage boys and girls pass through its doors since the very first group meeting on April 6, 1989.
Last Thursday, a packed ceremony at the Broadway Theatre marked the impressive milestone attended by cadets old and new, their families, the London deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh and borough commander, Andy Ewing.
This year, the cadets’ ranks have swollen to 140 with the addition of the junior cadets and plans for a second unit in the months ahead.
It’s a far cry from the early days when just 20 or 30 cadets were on parade, as youth engagement officer Pc Daryl Bonas recalled.
The Barking-born 53-year-old was transferred to the borough back in 1998 and has seen whole families pass through in the last 16 years.
“A lot of the kids said it is like their second family,” she said.
“They get such a sense of self-worth with all the volunteering – they do literally thousands of hours each year for the Met.”
Cadets voluntary roles include everything from leaflet drops in crime hotspots to helping steward major events such as the Royal Wedding, Queen’s Jubilee, London 2012 Olympic Games and more regularly the Notting Hill Carnival and Lord Mayor’s Show.
In 2009, they took part in the parade of the Volunteer Police Cadets at Horse Guards Parade.
Often seen out and about in public dressed in their navy blue uniforms, the cadets provide a “priceless” link between young people and the police, said Pc Bonas.
She said cadets came from all walks of life, including straight A students and vulnerable people who might be getting caught up in gang culture.
Their desire to be a cadet united them and also gave them the chance to make new friends.
“They never cease to amaze me with the dedication they show,” she added.
“It is a real confidence booster for the local kids to be a part of the cadets and it gives them opportunities to do things that perhaps their own families wouldn’t have the finances to do.” Describing her role as the “best job in the Met”, she said: “The job satisfaction is enormous. Especially when they come along and they have never done anything like this before and they are shy and quiet and then a year down the line they are surprising themselves.”
Originally stationed at the Adult Training Centre in Gascoigne Road, Barking, the cadets moved to their current home in Sydney Russell School in about 2001.
In March 2010 a second cadet unit started at Eastbury School in Barking.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Ewing said the last 25 years had been a “true and remarkable success story in an often sceptical world, adding: “It’s a story we can all be proud of.”
Mr Greenhalgh said: “It was a privilege to join Barking and Dagenham Volunteer Police Cadets to celebrate their 25th anniversary and to recognise the achievements of the oldest cadet unit in London.
“The mayor and I want to encourage more young people across the capital to join their local VPC unit so they can support the police and help protect the public whilst learning to be responsible citizens.
“It was fantastic to recognise the hard work of the staff and all the cadets in Barking who are part of over 3,000 cadets serving across London.
“I was delighted to see local residents turning out to see the cadets on parade and to have the young people commended in front of their friends and family.”
• Call 020 8217 7936 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the cadets