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Second language recruitment pilot ends at Met

More than 1,000 applied to join the force under strict new rules - including more Spanish than Arabic speakers
Published - 04/09/2015 By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle

Up to 47 new German speakers could be pounding the streets of London soon as part of a bid to "engage with communities".

The Met Police's pilot recruitment drive in which only those who speak one of 14 second languages were allowed to apply to the force has now closed.

Among the tongues chosen were German, Spanish and Italian, which raised eyebrows when they were announced in July.

Figures show that more applications were received from Spanish than Arabic speakers, and just three from people fluent in Hebrew.

The most popular language was Polish, for which 178 applicants with second language skills wanted to join the constabulary.

A spokesman for the Met's HR department said that a "rigorous selection process including testing of language skills" has now begun.

She added: "Successful candidates will then be deployed into one of the boroughs where their second language is used."

When asked which areas the German, Spanish and Hebrew speaking officers would be posted to, she said details were unavailable.

Questions have been asked about the selection of the 14 languages which excluded widely spoken ones such as French, Mandarin and Gujarati while including some, like German, for which there are few known speakers who cannot also speak English.

Academic and former police officer Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera said those chosen seemed to have been "picked from the Commissioner's hat", and excluded potential recruits from most African and Caribbean backgrounds.

He added: "I'm of Sinhalese Jewish descent, I can’t speak fluent Sinhalese or Hebrew so this means I wouldn't have been able to get in."

The founding member of the National Black Police Association said he felt Tamil would have been a more useful Sri Lankan language than Sinhala based on demographics.

But he added: "Police are meant to be an evidence led organisation, not one that just sticks a finger in the air. This struck me as tokenism, where is the research to back it up?"

Andrew Boff, leader of the Conservatives on the London Assembly, previously said: "Where is the German speaking minority in London? Unless it’s to do with the tourists, I struggle to understand why German has been included. Even Germans don’t want to speak German."

All further Met recruitment has now been frozen and the force says it is analysing if this stipulation has been a success before deciding whether to implement it in future.

The Met spokesman said: "The language requirement is the latest in a number of initiatives the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] has introduced in a bid to make the MPS more reflective of London’s communities.

"The initiative was designed to bring officers into the Met with more of the skills necessary to help police and engage with London's diverse communities as effectively as possible.

"The month long pilot, aimed solely at people who can speak and understand at least one of 14 specific languages, resulted in a significant number of applicants.

"In total, we received 2,668 expressions of interest resulting in 1,140 completed applications. The top five languages spoken by those who applied were Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Polish and Turkish. The application window has now closed."

Earlier this year the force said the languages were selected by using data to identify "communities that have a higher than average population across at least one of 32 boroughs that we police".

Total number of applicants, by second language spoken

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