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Harlow split over Polish officers, says police commander

Published 15/09/2016

Polish officers Bartosz Czernicki and Dariusz Tybura join local Pc Paul Harrison on patrol in Harlow
Polish officers Bartosz Czernicki and Dariusz Tybura join local Pc Paul Harrison on patrol in Harlow

The arrival of two police officers from Poland has split opinion among the Polish community in Essex, with some saying they do not trust the police, a district commander said.

The officers were sent to Harlow - which has a large Polish population - to reassure the community after Arkadiusz Jozwik was killed in the town last month.

Police are treating the attack as possibly racially aggravated and the murder was condemned by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Mr Jozwik was killed by a single punch in an apparently unprovoked attack on August 27.

Two other Polish men were assaulted in the town centre hours after attending a silent vigil for the 40-year-old, known as Arek, on September 4.

The Polish police officers - 2nd Lieutenant Bartosz Czernicki and Chief Sergeant Dariusz Tybura - will be working in and around Harlow with different communities for seven days, and were patrolling the streets with local officers on Thursday morning.

Chief Inspector Alan Ray, district commander for Harlow, said: "The Polish government made the offer to Essex Police to send Polish officers to Harlow to help with community engagement and we thought that was a good idea.

"We welcomed them with open arms and they're now policing the town, not using any powers as such, but just on the community engagement side, to meet and greet the public and to reassure the community."

Asked if there has been any feedback from the Polish community, he said: "We've had mixed messages from the Polish community.

"Some are saying to us that, 'We don't trust police officers and that's from our experience from Poland'. Others are saying, 'We welcome these Polish police officers in'.

"And the experiences we've had on the street with the Polish police officers have all been positive. They've been welcomed by the community."

Mr Ray said the feedback has been "fairly even" in terms of positive and negative, adding: "You'll get that if you ask questions to any community. You'll get positives and negatives. And our job now is to bridge those gaps and make sure the people of Harlow can talk to the police and report incidents to the police."

He said it is the police's role to "build that trust" with communities.

"There is a fear of Polish police and there is a fear of English police, and that comes from all different communities. Some people will trust us, some people won't," he said.

The presence of the Polish officers is "about reassurance in all communities", Mr Ray said, pointing out that over the last year only 2% of victims in Harlow were Polish nationals.

A local officer and one of the Polish policemen stopped to talk to Paula Templeman, 36, who was sitting outside a cafe.

She said they were "completely approachable" and said the Polish officer "seemed lovely".

Last week a Polish man was beaten by a group of up to 20 teenagers in a suspected racially aggravated assault in Leeds.

Theresa May called the Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo to express her "deep regret" and to stress "hate crime has no place in UK society".

Attacks and crimes committed against Poles have been on the rise since Britain's vote to leave the EU in June.

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