School-age children as young as 16 should be recruited to join Britain’s police force as a way of tackling cyber crime, the top cop representing senior police officers has said.
Chief Superintendent Gavin Thomas, who took over just days ago as President of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, said hiring teen cops could be a way of law enforcers in Britain staying one step ahead of criminals of the future who use computer technology in their law-breaking activities.
It used to be a case of the strong arm of the law to fight crime, but under the Thomas plan it would be the young arm of the law fighting cyber crime.
Thomas has opened up a major debate by saying the recruitment age for the police should be lowered to 16 to enable forces to best tackle the changing nature of crime.
The reason, he explains, is that school leavers might prove more adept at fighting cyber-crime and social media offenses than older police officers.
Currently the minimum age for joining the police service in Britain is 18, but under the Thomas plan 16-year-olds would join the service as apprentices.
It would, he says, be one way of ushering in the sort of diversity needed if the police are to stay one step ahead of the criminals in the future.
Many traditional crimes such as burglary and car thefts are disappearing, but at the same time there has been a dramatic rise in cyber crime, Thomas argues.
The police service, he said, needs to be more flexible in its recruitment policy to ensure it has the right people to tackle the new criminal landscape.
“The pace with which technology is changing means that someone who is 26 might be in a completely different space on social media to someone who is 16, so there is undeniably a generational thing,” Thomas said in one interview.
The police have done a great deal adapting to the changing face of crime and tackle offenses such as online bullying and E-reputation.
But in a series of interviews today Thomas said the police service needs to start to consciously looking at who is being recruited into the service in the future, so that the service gets people who intuitively and culturally understand the new technologies and the behavior that go along with them.
Thomas’ ideas for teenage recruits won support today from senior officers on the social media site of the Police Superintendents’ Service of England and Wales.
One member commented that private industry has already hit on the idea of recruiting young people with knowledge of media trends.
“Industry has been recruiting ‘geeks’ for years,” he wrote.
Another commented on the association’s site: “Times are a changing. Crime scenes move from street to virtual world. We need tech savvy recruits.”
One police inspector said on the site: “Its well overdue, a great way to recruit and grow young people into policing roles.”
Another police superintendent said: “it was good to see Gavin Thomas pushing the thinking in terms of building a police service for the 21st Century.” Enditem