Constable lends an ear
By KRISTINA RAPLEY - Eastern Courier
21 August 2009
Pakuranga College is the first in the area to take on the Cops in Schools programme which has been successful in south Auckland colleges.
Highland Park community constable Merv Hotter was keen to try it out in east Auckland schools.
"Iíve seen a big gap between the police and teenagers, and from what Iíve seen, the gap is getting wider and wider.
"Hopefully I can come in and mend some bridges and help in some way."
He says the initiative has been doing good things in lower decile south Auckland schools but he says all schools have issues.
"Teenagers have this perception that we are the bad guys.
"Sometimes they only ever see us if we are arresting mum or dad, or a brother or sister or when something bad is happening.
"They never see the work we do in the community like Neighbourhood Support, things that mould the community together.
"Weíre not always out there arresting people, pushing people around and growling."
Pakuranga College principal Michael Williams was head of Aorere College in Papatoetoe where the programme was very successful.
"For me, one of the key outcomes of it is the humanisation of the police force," he says.
"The students will start to realise that the police are just normal people, trying to make the community a better place.
"And if they take that attitude out with them on the weekend, and after hours, then our community will be a lot better."
Mr Hotter will be out and about with students every Monday during their interval. He says they can approach him about anything, no topics are off limits and what they talk about will be completely confidential.
"I think it will take a while for the kids to warm to me, but I hope they start to see the police in a different light.
"I just want to see a better relationship," he says.
"If police turn up to a party and have to shift people on, theyíll understand why Ė at the moment they donít.
"A little bit more respect is needed, and that comes from both sides."