North Wales: Welsh-only police car sign denied

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Oct 13 18:51:25 UTC 2008

    Welsh-only police car sign denied
   [image: Police car sign - heddlu in Welsh] Heddlu is alongside the
English version of police on North Wales Police cars

*North Wales Police have denied any plan to remove the word "police" from
their vehicles.*

Chief constable Richard Brunstrom was criticised after claims he said at a
seminar on language he wanted to leave only the Welsh version, "heddlu".

But the force said his reported comments should be seen in the context of a
language discussion when he raised several "rhetorical questions".

The force said there were no proposals to change their bilingualism policy.

Both words "police" and "heddlu" are currently used on police vehicles
throughout Wales, and newspaper reports of Mr Brunstrom's supposed comments
led one MP to write to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in protest.

According to the Daily Post, Mr Brunstrom made the comments at a conference
to mark Unesco's international year of languages at Bangor University on

It was claimed that Mr Brunstrom had said he wanted the English version of
police removed from the back of police cars, and replaced by heddlu.

The newspaper also said that Mr Brunstrom had said he had a different view
of the world since learning Welsh, and that "xenophobia and fear of the
unknown" were at the root of many crimes in north Wales.

A North Wales Police spokeswoman said: "The chief constable raised a number
of rhetorical questions while addressing a language symposium on Friday, one
of which concerned the use of language on police vehicles.

"North Wales Police currently mark the vehicles with both the word 'heddlu'
and 'police', as it has done for a number of years.

"There are no proposals for related changes to our current Welsh language
policy or indeed the vehicle livery. If any such changes were to be made,
full consultation would take place prior to this.

"The reported comments of the chief constable should not be seen outside of
the full context given at the 'Cymodi symposium to discuss language
difference and opportunity' which was attended by a range of participants
from the world of policing, academia, politics and those involved in peace
campaigns and reconciliation'."

Before police released that statement, Clwyd West Conservative MP David
Jones had said many people were fed up with controversial comments made by
the chief constable in public.

He added: "I'm personally heartily sick of them.

"We cannot allow this nonsense to continue. It's bad for community relations
and it's got to stop."

After the statement, Mr Jones said he stood by his remarks.

But Aran Jones, chief executive of Welsh pressure group Cymuned, who heard
Mr Brunstrom at the seminar, said it was important to think about the wider
context in which it was discussed.

"He mentioned that he had faced a very surprising mindset when he first came
into North Wales Police which was that the word 'heddlu' wasn't on police
cars at all," he said.

"And it turns out there had been quite a history of people asking for that,
and people finding different, peculiar, excuses for saying that it shouldn't

"As far as he was concerned it was a very easy decision, you just put it on
there. And then he found himself thinking, well in fact, we're operating in
largely Welsh-speaking communities, why do we need 'police', everybody
understands "heddlu?'".

The Home Office had said of Mr Brunstrom's reported comments: "It's one
individual and he's perfectly entitled to express his thoughts on a variety
of issues. It would be for him to progress this further through the
appropriate channels".

The Welsh Language Board said its North Wales Police scheme for 2006 stated
that the corporate identity of the force would be "fully bilingual".

A spokesperson said: "The Welsh Language Board is not aware of any change in
policy in terms of the North Wales Police's corporate identity which
includes vehicle signage, and no discussions have taken place to date".

Jeanette Miller, president and chief executive of the Association of Motor
Offence Lawyers, said she had "no doubt" removing the English word for
police would cause problems.

She said: "I think there would be a good argument that a motorist was
unaware of any requirement to stop if the word police is removed from
signage on police cars".

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