Police cadets in the United Kingdom

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Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC) is a nationally recognised police uniformed 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 purpose of the VPC is not to recruit police officers of the future, but to encourage the spirit of adventure and good citizenship among its members.

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.

The Aims of the VPC are:-

  • To promote a practical understanding of policing among all young people.
  • To encourage the spirit of adventure and good citizenship.
  • To support local policing priorities through volunteering and give young people a chance to be heard.
  • To inspire young people to participate positively in their communities.


Historically Police cadets were introduced in 1948, but then changes were made to the new system in 1959. The Metropolitan Police had the initial intention of boosting recruitment into the Metropolitan Police as, at that time recruitment was very low, and Police numbers in London were below (25,000) the 'establishment' figure of 28,000 police personnel. Police Officers were working two of their monthly 'rest days' and being paid for this work. Metropolitan Police Cadets were based originally in the former RAF Hendon buildings on Aerodrome Road and Police Cadets were all male aged 16 to 19 and they were paid a salary. They initially served two 'School terms' at Hendon and then transferred to another establishment at Ashford Kent until the first 'term' after their 18th birthday when they were attached to a Cadet Centre, there were four Cadet Centres at Kingsbry, Sunbury, Norwood and Wanstead. In 1968 the Hendon Police Cadet College opened on the corner of Aerodrome Road and Colindale Avenue almost directly opposite the gates to RAF Hendon. During 1970 RAF Hendon began to be transformed into a large Housing estate.

The new building consisted of a purpose built gymnasium, four accommodation blocks and an administration / training building. There was a large parade ground for the cadets to practice their drill. Police Cadets from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Kent Police made up part of the complement at Hendon.

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.

The VPC is supported by a team, led by Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer of Devon & Cornwall Police. The team have developed the National Police Chiefs' Council supported framework, sharing the common Aims and Principles of the VPC programmes operating in police forces across the UK.

They support the VPC through funding; developing resources and training; producing opportunities for cadets and leaders. Sharing good practice amongst VPC members ensures police engagement and education of cadets, recognising the role of young people within their communities and policing.


Some Police Cadets have a rank, such as Head Police Cadet. A Head Police Cadet may have lettering, a badge or stripes on their epaulettes denoting their rank, such as a Gold Star, as is used by Leicestershire Police.


Units normally meet at a local school or community venue once a week and are led by police officers, police staff and volunteers. In addition cadets develop their leadership skills by undertaking challenging social action projects in their communities with an expectation that they will volunteer 3 hours a month. Examples of these projects include supporting older members of the community understand cyber crime, fund raising for charities and road safety campaigns.

Cadets learn about:

VPC teams also take part in many events & activities out in their communities, such as the London Marathon, Notting Hill Carnival, Remembrance Sunday & Armed Forces Day parades.

Cadets also take part in the Duke of Edinbugh's Award (DofE) and from 2019 will have the opportunity to participate in the UK Youth Achievement Awards.

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.[2] They may also assist policing at large public events and provide crime prevention advice to local residents and businesses.[3][4]


There is no standardised uniform for the Police Cadets, with each parent Police Service providing their own uniform design. Generally, the uniforms avoid bearing too much resemblance to the uniforms of police officers, PCSOs, and other enforcement officers. They have tended to use badged polo shirts, formal uniform shirt (which could be white or blue) with epaulettes bearing VPC insignia or cadet rank bars, and a beret, peaked cap, or baseball cap. Cadets are also issued with trousers and fleece or coat. They do not feature the Sillitoe Tartan pattern or custodian helmet.

Some cadets wear black ties & wear a brassard on their right arm.

Other Forces issue their VPCs with a light blue or red tie.

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, 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".



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 Imbert. By 2010, every London borough had a VPC unit, along with a central support team within the Territorial Policing Command Unit. Metropolitan Police Cadets[5] 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.[6]

Schemes in operation[edit]

Investigations into abuse[edit]

Accusations of abuse of Cadets by Police have led to investigations in the Metropolitan Police and Greater Manchester Police.[7]

See also[edit]

Other UK Cadet Organisations


  1. ^ See the British Film Institute website here for more details.
  2. ^ "How many shops sold booze to underage and undercover police cadets yesterday?". Gloucestershire Live. 21 June 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Volunteer Police Cadets". Metropolitan Police Service. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  4. ^ "What do police cadets do?". What do police cadets do?. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  5. ^ http://www.met.police.uk/cadets/about_us.html
  6. ^ "Fighting Crime in London" (PDF). Boris Johnson. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  7. ^ "Police officers investigated over cadet sex claims". BBC News. 4 December 2018. Retrieved 4 December 2018.

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