‘Look past stigma’ and join the honorary force, says Vingtenier
A 24-YEAR-OLD honorary police officer – one of the youngest in the Island – is urging Millennials to look past the stigma of the force and help change the face of the historic organisation.
St Martin Vingtenier Elise Le Seelleur, who has served since the age of 21, said some officers, particularly in rural parishes, took themselves too seriously and went ‘looking for trouble’.
She said the stigma about the role is a major factor behind forces struggling to recruit and that honorary units across the Island also needed to work on their public image and interaction using social media.
But the former Highlands College and Jersey College for Girls student said young people – and particularly young women – could help change the view that the force was ‘full of middle-aged men who were hobby-bobbies’ and help save the role.
Last month, the JEP reported that the honorary police were in the midst of a recruitment crisis. In the six parishes worst affected almost half of the posts were vacant, with a total of 67 unfilled. Between those worst affected parishes, the forces should have 152 officers.
Miss Le Seelleur said: ‘I was 21 when I signed up and I was just looking for something to do for the community and for the parish – my family have lived here for hundreds of years and I wanted to give something back.
‘But there is a massive stigma about the role – you can see it just from comments below articles about the honorary police. It’s not so bad in St Martin, but every time you do go out you get called names. When I wanted to sign up, people asked what on earth I wanted to do that for.
‘But I enjoy it, although it’s certainly not for everyone. We are just there to help at the end of the day. We are not going out to find trouble and we are normal people. I have friends, I like going out and having a drink.’ Miss Le Seelleur, who is studying operating department procedures with Edge Hill University at the General Hospital, said she is on call for one week in every three and that her duties include attending parish hall inquiries, patrols on Friday and Saturday nights and helping out at events. She has helped during one shift in St Helier and is keen to do it again in the future.
The officer, who is working to set up a St Martin honorary police Facebook page, said the force needed to do more to interact with young people.
She added: ‘There are lots of officers who take themselves too seriously. Perhaps in the rural parishes, where it is quiet, they go out looking for stuff and for trouble. That’s not right. It’s different in somewhere like St Helier, but it’s just about being a person, being there so people know they can talk to you.
‘I would urge anyone my age thinking about volunteering to at least inquire about it. I think it can help being a woman sometimes. It can help diffuse a situation. And I do get a bit of reaction for being so young, but I think that helps too. If there is a situation, I think someone is more likely to confide in you if you’re young.’