Police cadets in the United Kingdom

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The term Police Cadets has two principal meanings in the United Kingdom. It may refer to the Police Cadet scheme which allows young adults to serve on the pay-roll of their local police in a virtual apprenticeship, leading (in most cases) to subsequent enrollment as a full-time Police Constable; this scheme was phased out in most English and Welsh police forces between 1990 and 1995, but is still active in Scotland. The term may also refer to the more recent (post-1995) Volunteer Police Cadet youth organisation, that offers an insight into policing, under the general supervision of the local police force in England, Wales and Scotland.

Police Cadets (apprentice police officers)[edit]


The Police Cadet scheme no longer operates in England & Wales. Police Cadets never had the powers of a Police Constable, but were employed by police forces to work alongside regular Constables, learning about police work in a practical and 'hands-on' environment. Working as a Police Cadet in this way usually went alongside more classroom-based training. On operational duty, despite having no powers of arrest, they were able to assist their more 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. Applications were accepted from the age of 16, and full-time paid Police Cadet service continued until the age of 19 , by which time a Cadet would either apply for training as a Constable, or leave the police force.


The Police Cadet uniform was, in most force areas, identical to the uniform of regular constables, with two exceptions. Firstly, Cadets wore a peaked cap with a blue band (as opposed to the police black and white Sillitoe Tartan design), and never wore a police helmet; and secondly, they wore a "Police Cadet" shoulder flash/badge on their tunics.

Police careers[edit]

Many of the most senior policemen in the United Kingdom, including many recent Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police Service, Commissioners of the City of London Police, and County Chief Constables, started their careers as full-time Police Cadets. Appointment as a Constable was never guaranteed, but service as a Police Cadet was a significant advantage in the selection process, and appears to have provided a solid basis for the subsequent careers of many senior police officers.


The Police Cadet scheme continues to operate in Scotland, with recruits typically entering the scheme aged 16 and serving for two years, before progressing to the regular police force. Cadets are employed full-time, although salaries tend to be low. Entry examinations are required, but those who have completed the scheme are not required to resit the entry examination on progressing to the regular police.[1]

Police Cadets in popular culture[edit]

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 London ITV-franchise company Thames Television.[2]

Volunteer Police Cadets (youth organisation)[edit]

Police work[edit]

There are a number of Volunteer Police Cadet schemes for young people aged (in most cases) between 14 and 18. These groups are designed to provide a sense of what it is like to be a police officer, by getting cadets involved in various police related activities, such as crime prevention projects. Some forces allow cadets to go out on patrol with Police Officers in connection with non-confrontational policing duties, once they reach the age of 14. Each scheme is sponsored by a statutory police service, although it has a separate identity, and in that sense is more distant from regular policing than the work of the former full-time Police Cadets. In most forces there are no formal entry requirements to become a cadet.

Cadet uniform[edit]

There is, at this time, no single Volunteer Police Cadet Uniform within the UK. Most Police Services have shied away from Cadets having uniforms that resemble that of the local Police service for health and safety reasons; the concern being that a Cadet may be mistaken for a police officer, PCSO or Community Warden or that it might facilitate an over eager Cadet impersonating a warranted officer. These Police Services have tended towards "blues" or Polo shirts and a beret or baseball cap. In Cambridgeshire, Cadets wear a similar uniform to the old full-time cadets, but were 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, Epaulettes, 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".[3] Police Cadets within Devon and Cornwall Police cadets wear a solid red hatband and epaulettes.[4]

London (United Kingdom)[edit]

The largest cadet scheme is operated by the Metropolitan Police Service, with over 3,500 Cadets (Dec 2014). The first Volunteer Police Cadet Unit started in Dulwich in 1988. Started by local officers it soon grew to a success and was expanded across other boroughs. By 2010 every London Borough had a VPC Unit, along with a central support team within the Territorial Policing Command Unit. Metropolitan Police Cadets (aged from 10 to 19) [1] 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.[5] Police cadets representing forces from all over the country formerly spent a weekend at Hendon Police College, in North London, for the annual National Police Cadet Competitions. This involved cadets competing in a range of police activities and scenarios, in which they were competitively assessed. In 2006, the Metropolitan Police announced that the National Cadet Competition was no longer to be held at Hendon due to operational and financial constraints. However the Annual Cadet Competition continues as a long tradition- although cancelled in 2012 due to London Olympic Games requirements it re-opened its doors and grounds to the VPC in 2013. 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 21st 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 Nottinghamshire Police Pipe Band, the British Airways Brass Band, and the Enfield District Scout Band.

Cadets are involved in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, and have the scheme's largest operating licence not run by a local authority. In addition they have an opportunity to take a senior leadership course to obtain an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification). There are also plans for the new entry test required for police officers to be included.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has supported the VPC (Volunteer Police Cadets) and has promised London an increase to 5000 by 2016.

Future expansion[edit]

Since 2011 many Police Services have been working together to develop a National VPC framework, under the guidance of Ch Insp Ed Sherry (retired 2013) and supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government via the Youth United Foundation. The developing scheme revolves around 4 aims:

  • Promote a practical understanding of policing among all young people
  • Encourage a spirit of adventure and good citizenship
  • Support local policing priorities through volunteering and give young people a chance to be heard
  • Inspire young people to participate positively in their communities

This new model also includes the principals that each Unit should:

  • Engage with young people between 13 and 18 years old
  • Have 25% of their membership from a “Vulnerable” background
  • Support their Cadets to volunteer 3 hours a month assisting in community and crime prevention events
  • Have a body of Cadets that represents the diversity of their Service Area

In April 2013 Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer was appointed ACPO portfolio lead for this programme and is supported by a small implementation team developing the project further under a common “brand” and framework. By April 2014 this work had led to 34 Services in England, Scotland and Wales agreeing to this joint framework, and many of the remainder scoping the viability of a starting a Cadet scheme.

Through funding from the Youth United Foundation the National VPC has now oversee the delivery of over 40 new units, with plans in 2014/15/16 to deliver another 60. Each Cadet Unit generally has space for 25 young people, and hence over 1000 young people now have places within the programme with 1500 more planned thanks to this funding. Through cooperative working the National VPC have introduced a number of structured products to help bring the programme together. The include an accredited workbook, certificated by ASDAN, a Senior Cadets Leadership Course and a Manual of Guidance.

Schemes in operation[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Full details of the training programme and salary levels are shown on this web page from Scotland.
  2. ^ See the British Film Institute website here for more details.
  3. ^ This uniform is illustrated here.
  4. ^ As stated and illustrated here.
  5. ^ As outlined on this webpage.

External links[edit]