Scotland Yard Training?
Posted on September 24th, 2018

By Garvin Karunaratne

Scotland Yard is no more what it was a few decades ago, when there was hardly any criminal activity in Britain. The situation is getting worse by the day. Last week a criminal gang closed down a major road in Wimbledon Village, the home of millionaires, chased away everyone in sight at gun point and pillaged a large jewellery store. The Police came on the scene when the looters had gone.

There is little to learn from Britain today as shown in my following recent writing:

Perhaps the manner in which I was involved in building up vibrant communities in Scotland may offer ideas for our Cities.

The Wave of Violence in London

The United Kingdom is no longer the safe country it was a few decades ago. Violent Crime has raised its ugly head.  A University professor, living in an affluent area, Wimbledon was brutally assaulted by a gang of burglars. London has had at least 82 killings this year.(Evening Standard:18/7/2018). London is in the forefront of violent crimes.  Raiders armed with concrete slabs, crowbars and 15 kg. Boulders lay siege to businesses in affluent West Hampsted. There were twenty smash and grab attacks in six weeks. (Eve. Std:20/7/2018) London has suffered  32,751 robberies out of a national total of 77,103 over 12 months(Eve. Std.:20/7/2018). The closure of 37 out of 73 Police Stations in London has come to the forefront as a cause for the incidence of crime. The Mayor of London laments that cuts in funding is the cause. Recently in London a robber gang had got their accomplice released from Police custody by threatening the police with a gun.

Many are the causes for the violence. Youth gangs are on the rampage. Drug Gangs  and Moped Muggings are reported frequently. A few decades ago bobbies were frequently seen on the streets of cities. There are no bobbies to be seen anywhere  now. The Prime Minister has ruled out stop and search as a tactic, but unless the police force is increased this is wishful thinking..

Attempts to contain violence have been made.

Much is thought of an attempt in Glasgow, where the murder rate has been contained from 39 in 2005 and  the teenage murder rate has been downed to zero. Under the leadership of a psychologist, Karyn McCluskey,  Glasgow has been transformed from the most violent city in Western Europe  to one of the safest. This is reported as a coordinated response linking public health with community professionals. It  recognized  that police tactics could only be  part of the solution and instead brought in  a coordinated response involving mental health services, schools, housing, social services, police and community groups”(EveStd.:18/7/2018)

There is a keen interest to address this emergence of violence. A Four hundred thousand pound Fund has been launched.

The Youth Violence Commission  speaks of the bloodshed as a preventable national shame. (Eve.Std:18/7/2018)

It was not long ago that Croydon, on the outskirts of London  broke out in flames. What happened in my words:

London did burn in August and in the days that followed there were riots in Birmingham, Manchester and many other Cities. People plundered shops and walked away with whatever they could snatch and in many areas they looted under the watchful survelliance of the Police. It was easily the Worst public disorder in a generation…..  The riots were far more serious than the Brixton Riots of April 1981 when over a hundred vehicles were torched.”From: “The London Riots: A Lone Battle by the drop outs of the Education System: The Answer- Self Employment Guidance to the Unemployed: Lanka Web 16/9/2011

I have been in the forefront of youth and community work in Scotland and Adult Education in London as well as overseas and am of the opinion  that increasing the police strength alone will never suffice. It has to be an attempt to build up vibrant communities-communities  that cater to all segments of the population specially the youth.  Every segment of the population, the youth, the adults, the old and infirm have all to be involved and be able to see a future in life.

How can this wave of criminality be contained?.

My mind travels back to the Eighties when I served as a Senior Community Education Worker cum Warden of the Clovenstone Community Center in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh.  Ours  was an attempt by a group of Community Education officials who were in charge of community centres  to have a try to build up vibrant communities.

In Edinburgh, Community Education  is:

A Process designed to enrich the lives of individuals and groups by engaging with people living  within a geographical area or sharing a common interest, to develop voluntarily a range of learning, action and reflection opportunities, determined by their personal, social, economic and political needs,(

In order to provide social housing to the needy a range of high rise flats were constructed in various areas of the City of Edinburgh in the 1970s. These flats were allocated to people who were living in dilapilated buildings in Glasgow and other areas in Scotland.

To cater to the education and social needs of the people in these highrise flat areas, the original plan was to establish 43 Community Centers.  Community Education was directed by the late, Peter Williamson the Director of the Community Education Department. In many discussions with him- his vision was to somehow  build up vibrant and active communities.. The City was divided into about four Areas manned by a Community Education Officer, with a Deputy and a few additional Workers. They were charged with coordinating and supervising the community, youth and adult education activities.. In each area there were a number of Community Centres.

The Clovenstone Community Center was one such Community Center. The area for this Center included Wester Hailes and the surrounding areas. Wester Hailes was a severe poverty stricken  area of the City of Edinburgh. A 1994 Report  of the Edinburgh District Council, Local Economic Development Strategy,  states that sixty percent of all households were living on less that pounds 5000 per annum. This puts Wester Hailes  within the lowest 20% of the UK. for household earnings.”. Many families were contained within poverty.. Wester Hailes was home to 9750 people in 1991 and had a large proportion of social housing. It was an area of high unemployment- It had a record of 22%, unemployed compared  to 8% in Edinburgh.

I assumed duties as the Senior Community Education Worker and the Warden of the Clovenstone Community Center in 1979 November. I had just completed my doctoral studies in Agricultural Economics and Non Formal Education at Michigan State University. . Earlier I had worked as a Social Worker in the City of Manchester and had secured the Diploma in Community Development from the University of Manchester with Distinction.

The Community  Center had an Assistant Warden. The Center was managed by a Management Committee elected by the body of members. The Chair, the Treasurer, the Secretary were all elected… All programmes of work and all activities  had to be approved by the Management Committee.,that met once a month, apprised the strength of the programmes and offered guidance for the future.. The Warden of the Community Centre was responsible for all the activities and he had to offer his expertise for the smooth functioning of all activities.

The Community Education Department provided the building, its maintenance and  a small grant for community and youth activities. The amount provided as a grant was inadequate and it was upto the Leaders of the various activities to raise funds. No donations were sought from either businesses in the area or from anyone. Instead, the Community Leaders had to assess the funds they required, get their proposed activities approved by the Management Committee and get down to work- to build up a vibrant community that looked after every segment of people in Wester Hailes. They had to work with interested members of the community. All were volunteers, people from all walks of life who provided their mirth and expertise to enable every segment of the community to feel they were wanted.

The  main programmes approved by the Management Committee comprised:

Youth Club for  Under 14

Youth Club for Over 14s

The German Exchange for Youths

The Adult Club,

The French Exchange for Families


Scottish Dancing

A Cafeteria

The Management Committee decided on Leaders for every activity and every  activity was closely supervised by the Chairperson and , key members   of the Management Committee, the Warden and the Assistant Warden.. The Warden or the Assistant Warden had to be present at the Community Center and if both had to be away, they had to make arrangements for a responsible member of the Management Committee to be at the Center. They keys of the Center were held by the Warden, the Assistant Warden or by a member of the Management Committee.

The Community Education activities were monitored by the Area Community Education Officer for South West Edinburgh. Expertise and assistance were always forthcoming when necessary from other Community Centers in the area like Pentland Community Center. The The Assistant Warden at Pentland Community Centre, , the late Clive Page  as well as other officers at the Area Office were always available.

The Community Centre was a hive of activity from morning nine to almost midnight every weekday. On Saturdays and Sundays it was open only for special events. Most members were away at work during the day and would grace the Centre in the evenings at around seven when there were animated discussions on any thing of importance, specially, including the  activities that were scheduled for that day. Some members of the Management Committee had even thought of the Community Center as their home during the day and  a few of them would gather in the mornings  and continue to be there till evening.

There was nothing that could happen in Wester Hailes without being reported the next day at the Centre, when the leaders of the various activities who were present would put their heads together and see what they could do. Matters always got reported to the Warden and Assistant Warden for ideas and advice. . If anything were amiss, if there were clashes within a family for outsiders to hear and be concerned that was a cause for the Community Centre leaders to tap on the door and invite them to join us at the Community Center. When a new family is allocated a flat we arrange for some community leaders to visit them greet them and to inquire about their well being. In other words a dragnet was cast over the entire Wester Hailes.

The various activities- almost every activity needed funds as the allocation from the Department was insufficient and plans were readily made for Jumble Sales- sales of jumble discarded by residents in Wester Hailes and adjoining areas. The Department had a few MiniBuses which were available to collect the donations. The Leaders of the activity, had to arrange for information to be passed on through notices and drop ins to the doors requesting donations like clothing or unwanted furniture for collection.  A few Community leaders will come in the Minibuses to collect the donations and these have to be taken to the Community Center where members of the Management Committee and members of the community coopted, will go through the collection and decide on the sale price of each item.  Strapper lads ran through the stairs carrying heavy items. These were the guys who left to themselves would be involved in muggings and thieving. Now they had some work to attend to.. They had a say in what was happening and were amply satisfied. Fixing the sale price had to be carefully done and it was done by the community leaders under the watchful eye of the warden and key members of the Management Committee who would offer their opinions to ensure that the price was reasonable.  Sales were conducted at the Community Centre and adequate publicity was always provided by the late George Strathie of the Scotsman.

The funds raised by the various Jumble Sales were used for the expenses of the various activities.

A few details of certain activities are included to indicate how we tackled the problems of city life.

Youth Club for  Under 14

Youth Club for Over 14s

The emphasis in the youth clubs was to enable the youths to get involved in various activities and socialize. It was fairly difficult to be accepted by the youth. They did not appreciate advice. It was upto the officers to win them, establish contact. The more studious youths were busy in studies while it was the rest that came into the Centre. It did not take long for me to win them over. That happened when I joined them on their swimming. None of the strapper lads half my age could swim with me.. My predecessor, a Scot had his car taken away for a week. It was not reported to the Police. The Youths were tough but had to be won over.  Gradually youths got weaned into community activity.

It was very interesting to see leadership grow among the youth.  Ample opportunity was offered by the Managementt Committee members to allow Youth Leaders to emerge and  the aim was for the youth in clubs to manage their own activities.  Some leaders grew up and ended as management committee members and Youth Leaders after they reach the age of 18, when they could no longer come to the Club.

The German Exchange for Youths

This was an Exchange Plan for youths in Wester Hailes to go to Germany once every two years when they would be the guests of a Community Center in Germany. The youths who are interested will be to get actively involved in planning the events and collecting funds. The funds provided by the Department of Community Education and the grant from the Princess Trust was insufficient to provide for the air fares and other activities. The youths get the opportunity to build up their abilities and capacities in the entire process of collectingf the donations, preparing the donations for sale, fixing prices and conducting the sales. The activities get going in full earnest and keep the youths fully occupied.  The Management Community members and leaders ensure that leadership grows amongst the youth. They youth are made to realize that they are wanted. They become more responsible in making decisions

In the next year youths who come from Germany have to be provided with accommodation and various activities drawn up for the youths of the two countries to cooperate and work together.

Most of the youths who are on the rampage in London and other cities in my opinion are outcasts because they did not feel wanted by their communities. That could not have happened in the manner in which activities were planned in Clovenstone. Every youth felt that they were wanted. Every youth felt proud as a part of the community, a community with which they could identify and a community that does care for them

The French Exchange for Families

As stated earlier, poverty stricken families had hardly any savings for foreign travel. But the Community Activities provided an opportunity for families with low incomes to cooperate in activities at the Community Center and build up the funds in the Community Center to enable families to find funds for their air fares, subsistence in France and for activities- to see places of interest. They were guests of a Community Center in France and had to reciprocate the next year by hosting the families that come to Wester Hailes. The French family Exchange was a hive of activity for a long period every year.


This was a group of girls who would perform on various occasions.  Fund raising was done for the activities. The girls were actively involved in the work.

Scottish Dancing

There were classes in Scottish Dancing, which wsa always well attended.

A Cafeteria  was run by a member of the manaement committee with some interested youths. They were given training in running the canteen. It was training to run an enterprise, buying, pricing, sales and accounting.

Caring for the Disabled

The Community Center at times invited disabled adults from Homes for the Disabled run by the Social Work Department. The disabled were greeted,  various social activities were organized for them and they were invited for a meal.  Though this activity was done by the officers and key members of the Management Committee, youths and members of the community were involved., This provided an opportunity for the members to adopt a caring attitude to the disabled.

Supervision on the Manpower Services Programmes: STEP and YOP

The Manpower Services Commission had two programmes involving oiut of school youths. Youths who were enlisted on these two Programmes: Under these Special Temporary Employment Programme(STEP) and the Youth Opportunities Programme(YOP) youths who were unemployed were enlisted for a year and attached to various learning institutions in the City to familiarize themselves with the world of work. They were paiud a small  sum as an incentive. A few of them were also attached to our community center and participated in all our activities. We gave them a full background of our workings. However at the end of their period they invariably fell to the ranks of the unemployed. I had the occasion to draft a plan to strengthen their studies in various disciplines where there was a scope to hope that they could find self employment and I suggested that expertise within the officialdom as well as community members who could offer help will guide them to become sussful entre[preneurs.  In discussions with key community members it was clear that we could successfully implement such a programme. However this was turned down by the Educational Committee of the City as well as by the Manpower Services Commission. Our attampt at making the youths ewntrepreneurs was lost. The manpower Services Commission too folded up a few years later with little or no achievement to the tremendoius funds they spent.

In every activity, after the session was over the community leaders and the officers would sit together to discuss at length  what happened, the responses that were made to the problems that were confronted during the session and this discussion takes on a form where there is ample flow of ideas and always end in a learning situation. It is this that creates a vibrant community.

Coordination of Activities. The Warden and the Senior Community Education Worker was in charge of coordinating the work of the Community Center  with the other Departments like Stevenson College, for further education that was required, with Housing, the Police Force etc.

The Concept of Education. used in all activities was Community Development  and  Non Formal Education.
According to the United Nations, Community Development can be tentatively defined as a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community, with its active participation and the fullest possible reliance upon the community’s initiatives.(United Nations:1965)

Professor Murray Ross in detailing  this concept in his book: Community Organization: Theory and Practice:   emphasizes the process of participation:

The process that by which  the community identifies its needs and   objectives, develop the will to work at the needs and objectives, finds the resources to deal with these needs and objectives, takes action to get them done  and in doing so develop cooperative and collaborative   practices in the community”

In my words,

The fundamental idea behind this educational process  is that as the people participate they acquire knowledge and become activized, dynamic and responsible. As the people become intensely involved in the process and as the process evolves, people  by experiencing, come to understand,  accept and appreciate  working with one another. In this process of identifying and confronting a common problem they become disposed to cooperate. They will develop skills in overcoming the problems involved and thereby become responsible and self reliant…. This entire continuum of action is an educational process leading to the development of the initiatives and the responsibility in the people.”

The emphasis  was to guide the community  members to cooperate of their own free will, and manage programmes and develop skills in management and aim to be self reliant. In this various educational strategies were used. They are: Discussion and Deliberation,  Conscientization(after Freire) Participation. The Role of the workers is to enable the people to participate freely , enable them to develop skills in the management of their own affairs and become self reliant.

In the working of all activities at Clovenstone it was possible for the leaders of the community centre to acquire skills and management ability to function  on their own.

If one were to look at Courses run by Universities today in the UK, one would find many with studies in community work. These mostly use community connections to get certain things done. The thrust is how to use communities for various purposes like social and youth work. There community connections are used for a particular purpose. Instead one has to go to the concept of Community Development where attempts are made to develop vibrant communities.  This was the remit of the Community Development studies at the University of Manchester. Unfortunately that Section is closed down now and so is the Section on Non Formal Education at Michigan State University. It is my opinion that these Studies in Community Development have to be resurrected in an attempt to build up the knowledge in workers who in action can enable the build up of  vibrant communities.


It is hoped that details provided of how the Management Committee  at Clovenstone Community Centre  managed its community activities offers some hope towards the build up of active vibrant communities in our Cities.

The Clovenstone Community Centre was one out of a dozen or so Community Centres run by the Community Education Service.  All had similar programmes of community development, perhaps, with different emphasis.  In Clovenstone the community members  were put to the forefront and put in charge. The officialdom was always there but in the background, allowing the community members to lead.

In the build up towards having active and vibrant communities, it may be necessary to train the officialdom in  methods and techniques of enabling the development of the capacities of community leaders. It is an easy task for the officialdom to run the programmes. The activity can then be easily accomplished. The task has been done but we have left the people behind. The people have not had the opportunity to build up their abilities to do things on their own and become self reliant. .

It is my opinion that in addition to increases in the police strength and bringing about effective coordination(The Glasgow Achievement), there should be a programme to build up currently existing community centers and their activities. In  areas where there are no community centres, new community centres is a must. It is also necessary to train the officialdom to function in a manner that enables the people in charge of the various community activities to develop their capacities and strengths to make them function on their own. That  emphasis on Self Reliance is perhaps the only path towards building vibrant communities.


Professor Murray Ross,  Community Organization: Theory and Practice, Harper and Row, 1967

United Nations, Social  Progress through Community Development, UN. 1955,

Garvin Karunaratne, Non Formal Education: Theory and Practice at Comilla,  The Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, 1984

Garvin Karunaratne

Former Government Agent, Matara


One Response to “Scotland Yard Training?”

  1. Nimal Says:

    British police one of the best in the world,very much understaffed and underfunded.UK had been unwise to let so many people to settle as refugees and all the undesirables could just walk into the country from EU nations, bringing with the undesirables. Only 3 days ago the police confiscated cannabis from a group of young who were hanging around at 3.30 AM.They,6 of them are from the age group of 14 to 16. They should be in bed preparing for school which they despise. One of them said that they don’t mind going to prison and getting a criminal record. Perhaps their parents are the same living free on the benefit system. The eldest told me that he is a good Muslim.

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