Posted on January 7, 2005

Word Ban by Police Branded ‘Madness’

John Scheerhout, Manchester News (UK), January 6, 2005

Police in Greater Manchester were today accused of “political correctness gone mad” after the word “township” was banned because it was considered racist.

A police inspector deemed the word unsuitable and issued a memo to his staff saying the term is now barred.

Police in Rochdale adopted the word 12 months ago to describe its sub-divisions. But now they have reversed the decision and banned it because of its “association with apartheid”.

The word township has been used to describe poor areas in South Africa populated almost entirely by black people.

But today, an MP joined rank and file officers in branding the move “political correctness gone mad”.

The author of the memo, Chief Insp Jeff McMahon, said the term had “clear connotations” with South Africa’s old apartheid regime and outlined the ban in a newsletter to his officers on December 17.

It said: “The term township has been deemed unsuitable for use by the force. There are clear connotations with this term and (the) apartheid regime of South Africa and the discriminatory treatment of black Africans.”

His statement continues: “With immediate effect this term will no longer be used. The new term is ‘partnership’.”

It adds: “Thus, in all written and verbal communication this should be substituted where the term township would currently be used. The term partnership suggests the notion of working together to fight crime and protect people.”

The word township was introduced in some areas of Greater Manchester to describe new, smaller police divisions brought in by Chief Constable Michael Todd.

In Rochdale, the term has now been removed from official letterheads and notepaper, and signs around five police stations in the division have been taken down and replaced using the term partnership.


Door signs which said “Township Inspector” have been removed. A police spokesman said it was not possible to estimate the cost of the changes.

But one angry Rochdale policeman said he suspected police force bosses were going too far to correct the racism of some officers exposed in the BBC’s damning documentary, The Secret Policeman.

He said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. Everybody is fed up with this political correctness gone mad. We can’t say anything these days. We’re too frightened. The bobbies here are scared to death.

“I love this job. I’ve been shot at, stabbed, attacked and I still love coming into work. But the people in charge are telling me that by using the word township I’m a racist.

“It’s all because of The Secret Policeman.”

Altrincham and Sale West Tory MP Graham Brady said: “This is political correctness gone mad. I find it hard to believe that this word would cause offence and I think the people of Greater Manchester would far rather police concentrate on catching criminals than on the finer details of textual analysis.”

But Chief Insp McMahon stood by his decision.

He said: “It’s the achievements we want to focus on and township doesn’t really do that. We’ve done a lot of good work here as our crime figures suggest. We’ve done that with the help of our partners.

“It’s that connotation we wanted to get across. Hence the term partnership, which fits in with our force mission statement of fighting crime and protecting people. My view is that partnership is a better expression of what we want to achieve.”

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Thomas, responsible for territorial policing, said: “In order to reflect local differences, each division also uses the same terminology locally as their council and communities.

For example, Salford division use the term neighbourhood, North Manchester division use the term area and Wigan division use the term township.”