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Police officers go back to school in Thetford to help community

PUBLISHED: 11:00 11 March 2011

Officers at Thetford Police Station have begun to learn Portuguese to try to interact with people in Thetford more effectively.

Officers at Thetford Police Station have begun to learn Portuguese to try to interact with people in Thetford more effectively.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Police officers in Thetford have gone back to school in a bid to improve community relations.

Portuguese lessons have begun for those who would like to learn basic policing terms and so far they appear to have paid off.

Led by Diversity Liaison Officer Carla Pinto, who is Portuguese, phrases such as “I’m here to help” and “can I call someone for you” are taught using techniques from school, including song.

The lessons began in January with the intention of holding six. These have now been extended to the foreseeable future because of their popularity.

Mrs Pinto, said: “I think it breaks down barriers because if someone is really shouting and you try to speak English and if they don’t understand at least you can show you’re trying to help by speaking a bit of Portuguese.”

She added that a trip to the town’s Portuguese cafe was planned for the near future for officers to try out their language skills and learn more.

Thetford town centre PCSO Sharon Daws said she had already been speaking Portuguese in the community which had broken the ice on several occasions.
“For me this is the first time learning languages but it’s already helped a lot,” she said. “Sometimes people just want to fill out a driving licence but they don’t know how to tell you what they’ve got.

“We can explain what it says. I also get a great welcome in the Portuguese cafe and they have a nice little laugh helping me out with what I’m saying but they enjoy me going in and it helps them to see us in different ways.”

The lessons are run on a voluntary basis by Mrs Pinto at Thetford Police Station and officers are free to come as many as they wish.

Thetford Response Inspector Malcolm Burt said: “The idea behind the workshops is to give officers and staff a basic understanding of the language, aiding and easing our ongoing community engagement.

“We hope that this will improve links between the police and the Portuguese speaking residents who live and work in the town. Officers may be able to deal with some low level crime and anti-social behaviour without the need of an interpreter, potentially resolving community concerns in a more efficient and informative way.

“Early indications are encouraging with both students and regular local Portuguese contacts, being impressed. We are grateful to Carla for the effort and enthusiasm she has shown towards running her lessons.”

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