Language & Communication22nd July 2015

Deaf Community Given No Consideration by Met Police Commissioner's Recruitment Policy

Understanding that communities have different needs from its police force, the Met Police demonstrates ignorance to the needs of Deaf people

by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

Following the announcement by the Met Police on Monday about the launch of a new pilot scheme for the recruitment of police officers with a second language, the Deaf community must think it is either invisible or of no consequence to the 'world's best police force'. Headed up so boldly by its Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, I hope David Buxton from the British Deaf Association and the heads of all the other national deaf charities, are lined up in the corridors of power at Scotland Yard, eager to challenge Sir Bernard's policy and to tell him what a prejudiced ignoramous he seems to be.

Keen to respond to community needs within London, the Met announced that it is looking to recruit police officers who have a second language. The languages they are looking for are:

*   Yoruba (Nigerian)   *   Hebrew
*   Arabic                       *   Hindi
*   Punjabi                     *   Italian
*   German                    *   Turkish
*   Greek                        *   Spanish
*   Polish                        *   Portuguese
*   Bengali                     *   Sinhala (Sri Lanka)

As a policy, it worries me anyway, as I would like to see a maintenance and prioritisation of the core skills a police officers needs - the languages of common sense, good judgement and fairness being uppermost in a recruitment drive. But, how can Britain's biggest police force be so ignorant about one of the home grown languages, used extensively by the Deaf community in London, as well as by many of the visitors to the city also.

Assuming a policy like this goes through a rigorous race and equality impact assessment, how can the Met's 'equality experts' have failed to recognise the needs of the Deaf community and the need for the Met to have better access to British Sign Language. In their announcement, the force explains that it hopes this recruitment exercise will help it engage more effectively with London's diverse community, seemingly at the exclusion the Deaf community of course.

Putting himself at the centre of this policy which appears ignorant in respect of Deaf people, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said, "I am committed to providing a police service which looks and feels more like London." Not is respect of a Britsh language (BSL) and the Deaf community you aren't Sir!

"We know that almost 300 languages are spoken in the capital," he went on the say. "We need to recruit and deploy officers with second languages in areas where those languages are spoken. I believe it will help boost confidence, help to solve crime and more effectively support victims and witnesses."

Unsurprisingly, Sir Bernard's recruitment drive faced widespread criticism within minutes of going live from a wide range of commentators including retired police officers. An English only speaking applicant to the force described on a radio programme their anger that they could not get a job now, because whilst they had completed all of the entry requirements, they would not now be considered.

The problem with any policy of this kind is that it is prejudicial by design, and whilst it might be able to be justified in law to avoid legal challenge, the message it gives to community groups that are not on the list is that they are marginalised and inconsequential. For the Deaf people who are victims of crime or otherwise need to communicate with Met police officers, they will wonder why their 'British' language is given such low priority by the police force that is there to protect and support them.

Hopefully, Sir Bernard will understand how outraged some of the Deaf community will be by his ignorance, and will come up with a master plan to demonstrate to the Deaf community that his police force is just as interested in them.

Article by Sarah Lawrence, Editor

posted in Community / Language & Communication

22nd July 2015