Chinese, German, Italian, Tamil, Korean or even Bulgarian... these are just some of the 36 foreign languages spoken fluently by over 140 police officers, of all grades, out on the streets or dealing with the public at the Prefecture de police.
These multilingual police officers have many roles, from simple requests for information to assistance with making a complaint or attending a hearing. Their linguistic skills mean they are of valuable help during procedures, but are also a major asset for the Prefecture de police in its relations with the local population.
Whether they have learned the language due to family origin, studies or simply personal interest, the career paths of interpreter police officers are varied. This is the case with Najet M., a policeman at the police station in the 18th arrondissement, who is fluent in several North African and Middle Eastern languages, and who began learning universal sign language at the age of nine: "In my family, several people used sign language, and I became interested in it so that I could communicate better with them." Hua N., meanwhile, a security officer in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, learned Mandarin Chinese from his mother. "What started as a personal learning journey has gradually become a professional asset," he explained.
Like all police officers, when confronted with delicate or even painful human situations, even if they feel strong empathy for the victim, the interpreting they carry out must always remain neutral. "The translation must be completely objective and accurate. The presence of an interpreter police officer is often reassuring for people in difficulty," emphasises Najet M.
Language related skills are an important asset to the Prefecture de police. Multilingual officers can be identified while they are still trainees, and their knowledge can be used and valued within the institution. During the summer and over the Christmas and New Year period, police officers assigned to public roles always wear a badge identifying the languages they speak, when they are in tourist areas.
More generally, the SAVE software (Foreign Victims Assistance System), which is in place in all police stations and is currently available in 16 languages, helps the way we deal with foreign victims of crime, as it translates the complaint into bilingual format.