Gaming used as a successful tool to build relationships between police and youth in Cops vs Kids pilot

Gaming used as a successful tool to build relationships between police and youth in Cops vs Kids pilot

Adam McGowan
6 min read | 4 Nov 2021

In August 2021, the British Esports Association collaborated with North Yorkshire Police to utilise esports as a way to engage with young people.

Throughout the month, officers and staff from all sectors of North Yorkshire Police were able to engage with a variety of young people from different backgrounds – including those with behavioural needs.

The pilot was brought to life by DPCSO Chris Simpson, and took place across 26 sessions at the Moor Lane Youth Centre in York. Those involved playing Rocket League together both casually and competitively.

Whilst the overall aim for this project was to get young people engaging with police officers in a more comfortable environment, it also showed the positive aspects of esports on young players and their parents or carers.

As this was a pilot, it was crucial to gather feedback about the running of the sessions, and the impact it had on both the officers and young people.

We compiled some of the best moments and interviews from the pilot into a video, to showcase the success that came from the project.

Some of the results from the pilot are as follows:

  • Regardless of any behavioural needs of the participants, it was reported that there were ‘no incidents of poor or inappropriate behaviour whilst in the sessions.’
  • ’All participants were able to engage in a relaxed and friendly environment which led to conversations progressing organically. Officers were able to speak with the young participants informally about many topics including use of social media, online gaming, school & education, careers and behaviour in general.’
  • Some parents of participants were very pleased with how the sessions positively impacted their child – ‘Mum felt that this was a very good experience for him to have done the sessions with the police as they were also able to talk to him informally about general behaviour that could get a young person in trouble.’
  • One North Yorkshire Police Officer involved said: “To be honest, I was very sceptical about the project – I didn’t understand the concept and what it was going to achieve. However, if anyone is feeling that way, they have to go down and experience it themselves to understand and see the benefits of something like this.”

As well as this, a case study on a specific participant (M) showed that, ‘although M didn’t participate [in the gaming], they sat in the room with officers whilst their partner took part. M was very well known to police and has an extensive criminal history despite being at a young age. M displays very challenging behaviour towards officers whenever they come into contact with each other.’ 

A participating Officer said: “I have seen M since and they remembered me from the gaming session. During the session M stated that this was the quietest and most relaxed they had ever been around cops.”

The general consensus on this pilot is that it was very successful, and opened up new opportunities for police to interact with young people in a neutral environment. 

Constructive feedback from those involved included things such as: better planning around networking and LAN issues, expanding the project further afield to other police forces, and to try and attract a diverse group of people through different game options. 

Chris Simpson said: “When I first came up with the idea for the ‘Cops v Kids Esports Pilot’ I was confident it would work, however I didn’t realise just how well it would work! Seeing the change in demeanour and attitude towards the police, sometimes. Within a few minutes or certainly within the session was fantastic. The young people involved with the pilot were a joy to be around, there was lots of laughing, joking and friendly banter.”

“We were able to engage with the young people on their level with something that interests them, whilst at the same time being able to have open and honest conversations about things that affect them in their lives. The young people and officers who participated actually learned a lot about each other, shared interests and even in some cases had similar backgrounds growing up. All made possible by the informal conversations they were able to have.”

“It has shown there are now lots of possibilities going forward to integrate educational and crime prevention aspects into the gaming sessions and I’m very excited about taking this initiative forward. I’d also like to thank the team at British Esports Association and York’s Youth Justice Service as without their help the initiative wouldn’t have been possible,” he added.

Alice Leaman, Head of Operations at British Esports, also commented: “From viewing the sessions in person and going through our findings, it’s clear to see how great of a tool esports is to engage with the young people and break down barriers. At British Esports we were proud to help support this initiative and look forward to seeing how we can expand on these successes in the future.”

Overall, the pilot has been deemed as a success, and can potentially be developed in the future to engage more people with esports.



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