Police cadets in the United Kingdom

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Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) is a youth organisation which operates in most parts of the United Kingdom. It is one of several Cadet youth organisations including the Army Cadet Force, Sea Cadets, Royal Marine Cadets, Air Training Corps and Fire Cadets. The Police Cadets teach young people skills in policing, and some may assist police officers with low-risk activities.

The Police Cadets were founded in their current form by the Metropolitan Police Service in 1988 and are organised based on the territorial police forces. Membership is open to youths aged 13-18, and some branches include Junior Volunteer Police Cadets for those aged 10-13. Though advertised as giving an "insight" into British policing, it does not guarantee future employment.


Until the 1990s, Police Cadets were full-time frontline employees who were aged 16-19. The Metropolitan Police Service introduced one such scheme in 1948. These Police Cadets had no powers of arrest but were able to assist their senior colleagues in many practical matters, such as taking statements, directing traffic, or offering crime prevention advice, as well as observing the work of their supervisors. This incarnation of the Police Cadets could be compared to present-day Police Community Support Officers. On reaching the age of 19, a Cadet would either apply for training as a police officer, or leave the police force. In 1980 the ITV television network aired The Squad, a drama series which followed the fictional adventures of Metropolitan Police Cadets. The twelve episodes were produced by Thames Television.[1] Most of these precursor schemes were disbanded by the 1990s.

The present form of Police Cadets began in 1988. It was a community initiative that was supported by Commissioner Peter Imbert, who wanted to engage with young people. The first documented Volunteer Police Cadet unit started in South Norwood (Lambeth) in March 1988.


All of the territorial police forces of England and Wales have a corresponding VPC branch, as does the British Transport Police. These are subdivided into local branches. There is a separate but similar scheme in Scotland called the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers, but no equivalent scheme exists in Northern Ireland.

In most forces, there are no formal entry requirements and applicants with criminal records can still be accepted.[2]


Police Cadets have no special powers. Unlike the previous full-time cadets, they rarely assist the police in actual policing activities, and are never sent to high-risk situations.

Once they reach the age of 14, cadets may go out in public with police officers to take part in low-risk policing activities. Undercover cadets have been used to test if shops are willing to sell alcohol, tobacco and weapons to underage customers.[3] They may also assist policing at large public events and provide crime prevention advice to local residents and businesses.[4][5]


There is no standardised uniform for the Police Cadets, with each branch having its own uniform. Generally, the uniforms avoid bearing too much resemblance to the uniforms of police officers, PCSOs and other enforcement officers. They have tended to employ "blues" or polo shirts and a beret, peaked cap or baseball cap. They do not feature the Sillitoe Tartan pattern or custodian helmet.

In Cambridgeshire, cadets wear a similar uniform to the old full-time cadets, but are issued with a navy blue combat-style sweater (marked 'Police Cadet') instead of a tunic; however in Sussex their uniform is similar to a police officer's, with white shirt, tie, epaulets, black trousers, and black shoes. They also have cadet jackets and a high visibility jacket. In Hertfordshire, cadets were issued with a light blue V-neck sweater, which had the county emblem embroidered on it. The Hertfordshire scheme has now changed and cadets wear a uniform similar to regular police officers, but with the word "cadet" embroidered on epaulette rank slides instead of a collar number and similarly the word "cadet" on the left breast reflective strip instead of the word "police".[6] Police Cadets within Devon and Cornwall Police cadets wear a solid red hatband and epaulets.[7]



The equivalent of the Police Cadets in Scotland is the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV). The PSYV is not part of the Volunteer Police Cadets framework, but is listed as a partner agency and carries out similar work.

Established in 2013 with five groups in Aberdeen, Cumnock, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, PSYV members volunteered at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and other public events. The program has quickly expanded and today there are now twenty groups across Scotland from Stranraer to Shetland, with plans to expand further.


The founder and the largest cadet scheme are operated by the Metropolitan Police Service, with over 5,000 cadets as of March 2016. It was founded in 1988 by Commissioner Peter Lambert. By 2010, every London borough had a VPC unit, along with a central support team within the Territorial Policing Command Unit. Metropolitan Police Cadets[8] are involved in continuing further education, DofE, learning about the police service, carrying out attachments to divisions and specialist departments, learning first aid, and engaging in community work projects with the disabled and disadvantaged. London Police cadets annually compete in a police scenario completion, which was traditionally held in Hendon, in North London, for the annual Police Cadet Competition. This involved cadets competing in a range of police activities and scenarios, in which they were competitively assessed. In 2015 the Metropolitan Police announced that the Cadet Competition was no longer to be held at Hendon due to the resizing of Hendon; some of the land was sold off for development. However, the Annual Cadet Competition continues a long tradition at the GRAVESEND public order site. 2013 also saw the launch of Junior Police Cadets capturing those young people from school Year 6 to Year 9 at which point they become eligible to join the senior VPC.

On Sunday 14 June 2009, the Metropolitan Police Volunteer Police Cadets took part in what is believed to have been the largest ever formal parade of young people, to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of the Volunteer Police Cadet force in what was named as the "colour parade" and was carried out on Horse Guard's Parade. Each cadet troop was formally passed a Standard (flag) under the review of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, and other senior officers of the Metropolitan Police. The parade also included the showing of vintage police vehicles, police dogs, and a static display of the Boys Brigade's London Massed Bugle Band. Bands that lead the four columns of a total of 1,400 cadets (and various police cadet staff, most of whom also hold different roles within the Metropolitan Police) were Metropolitan Police Pipe Band, the Nottingham-shire Police Pipe Band, the British Airways Brass Band, and the Enfield District Scout Band.

In 2011, Mayor Boris Johnson supported expanding the Metropolitan Police VPC by calling for numbers to be doubled by 2015. The Metropolitan Police VPC changed the age range from 14-19 to 10-24, introducing the UK's first Junior Volunteer Police Cadets scheme. The expansion target was achieved in March 2016.[9]

Schemes in operation[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See the British Film Institute website here for more details.
  2. ^ "FAQs for Cadets - Volunteer Police Cadets". 
  3. ^ "How many shops sold booze to underage and undercover police cadets yesterday?". Gloucestershire Live. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  4. ^ "Volunteer Police Cadets". Metropolitan Police Service. Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  5. ^ "What do police cadets do?". What do police cadets do?. Retrieved 5 April 2018. 
  6. ^ This uniform is illustrated here.
  7. ^ As stated and illustrated here Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine..
  8. ^ http://www.met.police.uk/cadets/about_us.html
  9. ^ "Fighting Crime in London" (PDF). Boris Johnson. Retrieved 2017-06-12. 

External links[edit]