Police officers in Ealing have started learning sign language in order increase communication with the deaf community.
Detective Constable Hannah Rudd, hate crime liaison officer for the disability catchment in Ealing, is the organiser of the lessons.
Last year Detective Rudd attended the Deaf Forum at the Ealing Centre for Independent Living.
Ms Rudd said: “I went along to the forum back in September to talk about hate crime.
“One of the things that came out of it was communication skills with victims of crime.”
The language lessons were started as a result of this feedback.
Alan Murray MBE, chief executive of ECIL, provides lessons to the officers.
Mr Murray, who was born deaf, does not use an interpreter in his lessons.
He only uses a PowerPoint to show phrases, otherwise the lessons are fully immersive.
“His lessons encourages the officers to jump right in,” said DC Rudd.
The lessons take place every Tuesday in a classroom at Ealing Police Station.
Each lesson has between 30 to 35 officers in attendance depending on availability.
So far, the lessons have received positive feedback from the community and officers.
Acting Detective Inspector Luke Williams said: “Following feedback from members of our community we identified we could improve our communication skills with victims of crime.
“Our partnered approach with ECIL is seeing 35 Ealing officers trained in basic BSL communication skills.
“In Ealing we are committed to reducing hate crime and will take positive action to keep our communities safe.
“This 10 week course will allow members of the deaf and hard or hearing community to report offences and communicate with investigators.”
“The lessons are going down well with the officers and hopefully it will encourage them to take it further,” said Detective Rudd.
As for the future, DC Rudd said: “My hope would be to extend this to more officers in Ealing.
“If there is a scope to spread it further that would be brilliant.”
“In Ealing we are keen to foster relationships with the wider community specifically to the deaf community and other victims of crime who maybe felt there were communication issues in the past.”