Pocketcomms communication aid being trialled around the Police Forces in the UK

Thursday, 22 July, 2010

A COMMUNICATION aid developed by West Midlands Police is now being bought up and trialled by police forces around the country - and beyond.

PocketComms has been launched in response to public and force needs within the West Midlands, where more than 40 languages are spoken and accessing the police service can be a problem for some members of the community. PocketComms enables officers to communicate with people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds as well as those who may be deaf or have learning difficulties.

Using a simple yet comprehensive sequence of graphics, PocketComms enables members of the public to indicate the service they need and what may have happened to them. Officers can also determine health, religious and dietary needs and the package includes a guide to accepted cultural etiquette when visiting homes and religious meeting places. As well as being distributed to operational officers and PCSOs across the West Midlands, it is being used in station custody blocks and front offices.

PocketComms has been snapped up by nine other forces in England as well as the national Serious Organised Crime Agency and the UK Border Agency. In addition, it is being trialled in 15 force areas including ones in Hong Kong, Holland and Germany.

The language aid - which is lightweight and can be attached to a uniform harness or utility belt - was developed in partnership with Coventry company PocketComms following extensive consultation with deaf and multi-cultural groups within the West Midlands.

West Midlands Police Chief Inspector Kevin Doyle explained how PocketComms can benefit both members of the public and the force. He said: "With dozens of languages spoken in the region, officers have until now had to rely on an expensive telephone based service and approved interpreters for even the most straightforward conversation with some members of the community. This language aid will help our officers deal with queries more efficiently and at the same time help reduce the force's bill for interpreter services."

West Midlands Police diversity adviser Maria Watson added: "PocketComms offers timely intervention and enables officers to quickly determine which language is being spoken, thus reducing confusion and costs in providing translation services."

She added: "We have had an overwhelmingly positive response from West Midlands officers already using the aid and the fact that it is now being trialled by police forces abroad demonstrates how it helps overcome language barriers."

PocketComms has been entered into the ACPO Excellence in Policing Awards 2010.

Pictured: PCSO Angela Chambers talks to a member of the public, with the aid of PocketComms.

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