Londoners have been protesting since the Scotland Yard announced a list of languages that prospective candidates must be able to speak along with English in order to qualify for employment with the Met Police.
According to the Daily Mail, the Metropolitan Police wants to bolster the number of officers able to speak and understand 14 languages which are widely used across London.
As part of a month-long trial which started today, new recruits must speak English and one of Yoruba (Nigeria), Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Italian, German, Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Sinhala (Sri Lanka) or Bengali to join as Met Police officers.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: ‘We know that almost 300 languages are spoken in the capital. 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 more effectively and support victims and witnesses.’
A Met Police spokesman said: ‘It’s a pilot scheme for four weeks. We will review it after four weeks and see what the take-up is and how successful it has been in terms of the number of people expressing an interest.
‘With so many languages spoken in London we recognise that some of our victims, witnesses and others who come into contact with the police may not be fluent in English.
‘This is about strengthening our capability to match the needs of some Londoners. We know there is a demonstrable link between the skills and capabilities of our workforce and public confidence in London’s police.
‘The language requirement is the latest in a number of initiatives the MPS has introduced in a bid to make the MPS more reflective of London’s communities.’
Chairman of the Metropolitan Black Police Association, Janet Hills, said: ‘This is about the cultural competency of officers within the organisation and those they are looking to recruit.
‘The MetBPA are broadly supportive of the intention but recognise that more needs to be done to effectively utilise the existing skills of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic officers by consciously placing them into communities where they will have the greatest impact.
‘Language is just one of the competencies that the MPS can utilise but unless officers with the right skills are placed in the right locations these attributes will be wasted.’
The move, however, has been criticised by a former officer and members of the public on Twitter.