A group of Lower Hutt police officers is being â€˜buddied upâ€™ with pupils from a local college in a pilot project targeting young Maori with leadership potential.
Project Rangitahi (Youth) is being launched tomorrow afternoon (3pm, Wednesday, 11 June) at Lower Hutt Police Station with the focus on "good kids" instead of at risk youth more usually associated with police contact.
Senior Sergeant Soni Malaulau says the pilot involves buddying up Group One and CIB Property Squad staff from Lower Hutt Police and five pupils selected from 15 nominated by a local boysâ€™ school St Bernardâ€™s College.
Two officers are paired with each of the boys who have been selected for their leadership potential. Over the next three months the buddies will work together on several activities ranging from sporting and outdoor pursuits to career orientated activities, culminating in a week-long Tiaiha seminar on Mokoia Island, Rotorua, in September.
"So often we concentrate on the five percent of recidivist offenders and forget about the 95 percent of good kids," Mr Malaulau says. "This pilot project is a chance for us to work with young Maori who are potential leaders and who can help positively influence other kids around them.
"Itâ€™s about police fostering a positive relationship with college kids and nurturing that understanding through our buddies to other youth in the community.
"Weâ€™ll be learning from each other and changing attitudes and perceptions."
Mr Malaulau says St Bernardâ€™s College, the selected pupils and their families are enthusiastic about the projectâ€™s merits as are â€˜Smokefreeâ€™ who have agreed to supply tops and equipment in support of the project. The boys are third to seventh formers and are paired with officers who share similar interests.
"We have a black belt martial arts expert, an outdoor enthusiast, several former school teachers and a fluent Te Reo speaker on our group so it hasnâ€™t been too hard finding the best buddy. It is also about recognising the quality of personnel we have on section and utilising that to our full potential."
There are set milestones for buddies to achieve over the next few months.
"Staff are under no illusions as to the commitment they have made to this project," Mr Malaulau says. "Lower Hutt is a busier area to police, but we have made a commitment and an investment in these kids for the future. I am sure we will see the long-term benefits as time progresses."
He says the project concept has the potential to be extended nationally.
"We hope to make a difference in our area and if others think that the idea is a good one then that can only be a good thing."
There is also the potential to include non-Maori children in the project.
"Weâ€™re looking forward to the project which complements other youth initiatives already being undertaken in the Lower Hutt Area."