Culture class for frontline police teams

IT’S back to school for hundreds of Kirklees bobbies as they take a lesson in Islamic culture.

Around 300 frontline officers will take part in ‘myth-busting’ training designed to help them better understand the Muslim communities they serve.

Acting Chief Insp Adrian Waugh said: “We want to make sure that our officers have a full understanding of the diverse communities they serve on a daily basis. Our aim is always to treat everyone fairly and by taking part in the training, it gives our officers the knowledge and awareness to deal with people professionally and courteously while dealing with different religions and cultures.”

Kirklees Faith Network has designed a 90 minute cultural awareness programme for the police at no cost to the force after the success of an similar scheme in 2009. That scheme earned commendations from the then divisional commander, Chief Supt John Robins.

Faith network volunteer Waseem Riaz said: “These sessions are not designed to propagate the Islamic faith. They’re designed to give a basic introduction into the Muslim culture for staff engaging with different sections of the community. It’s myth-busting work.

“Despite the recession and cutbacks, new faces have come into the force. Although key personnel have been through the training, it will be good for them to have a refresher as well.”

He said the training looked at issues like why some Muslim men choose more traditional dress or to grow long beard, and how to respect various customs.

“The whole training package has been designed to be responsive to the job roles of police. If they’re visiting a Muslim house, officers will know that their shoes need to be taken off the moment they go through the door,” he said.

“If I was working in a large Jewish community, I would be asking for training. I wouldn’t want to do anything embarrassing while I’m out there if I’m likely to be visiting their homes and meeting their leaders.”

Acting Chief Insp Waugh said: “We are extremely grateful to Waseem for his commitment and support and this emphasises the good relationships that we have built up in Kirklees.

“We want people to understand that we are part of the community, not just there to police it.”

A new intake of special constables were the first to complete the training last Tuesday. The next five sessions will cover various frontline staff, including neighbourhood policing teams and response officers.