Police officers have been banned from asking for ‘Christian’ names for fear of offending other religions.
Officers taking down a suspect’s particulars must now refer to their ‘personal’ or ‘family name’ as the word ‘Christian’ could offend Muslims, Sikhs and other faiths, according to new diversity guidelines.
They state bobbies on the beat should refrain from using phrases such as ‘my dear’ or ‘love’, when addressing women for fear it may cause embarrassment or offence.
Well-meaning gestures like handshakes or putting a comforting arm around a victim or grieving family member are also prohibited as it could be deemed ‘unprofessional’.
The handbook produced by Kent Police, which aims to ‘promote clearer communication’ and ‘break down barriers’ with diverse communities, advises officers to avoid language like ‘Christian’ name or surname.
They are also warned not to use terms like afternoon or evening as it could confuse people of ‘different cultural backgrounds’ about the time of day.
The 62-page ‘Faith and Culture Resource’ booklet produced by the force’s diversity support group sets out customs and practices in a number of religions and beliefs including paganism and rastafarianism.
In it, officers are told to offer to remove their shoes on entering people’s homes as some religions frown upon shoes being worn inside the home.
Other handy tips for police include wiping their feet to get rid of mud when entering a gypsy’s trailer and not to put a cup of proffered tea on the floor as this could offend their standards of cleanliness.
The booklet also contains a section on appropriate terms to describe ethnic origin, suggesting ‘mixed parentage’ or ‘mixed cultural heritage’ should be used instead of ‘mixed race’.
Staff are warned that when speaking to someone from Africa or Asia, they should refer to their specific country rather than the continent as a whole.
The rulebook has been described by Kent Police Federation secretary Peter Harman as a ‘useful and educational reference guide to dealing with different communities’.
But it has angered some rank and file officers who say it is politically correct nonsense.
One officer said: ‘Most of us are fully aware of how to treat people from different cultural backgrounds, but being told we can’t even ask what their Christian name is just plain ridiculous.
‘That is what we are brought up with–Christian name and surname–and to be honest if you had an officer ask for your personal name and family name it’s just going to confuse people.
‘It’s just the latest in a long line of annoying PC-related nonsense that we keep getting shoved down our throats.’
It follows a raft of PC directives from other forces.
Last year officers in Warwickshire were told not to say ‘Evenin’ all’–a phrase made famous by classic police drama Dixon of Dock Green–because times of day could meant different things to various cultures.
Scotland Yard recently instructed officers not to use the phrase ‘gang rape’, because the term was considered too emotive.
Instead they were told to refer to the crime as ‘multi-perpetrator rapes’.
A Freedom of Information request to police forces and fire services has also revealed that a number of organisations, including Essex Police and Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, instruct staff to avoid the words ‘child, youth or youngster’.
Addressing someone as a ‘girl’ or a ‘boy’ could have ‘connotations of inexperience, impetuosity and unreliability, or even dishonesty’, according to official guidance.
The same guide also warns against the phrases ‘manning the phones’, ‘layman’s terms’ and ‘the tax man’, for ‘making women invisible’.
Today, Marie Clair, of the Plain English Campaign, said: ‘It’s so sad that rather than using common sense, we are taking away all sense of respect from the way police deal with the public.
‘If people can’t be asked for their Christian name as a matter of common courtesy- something we all identify with- then where are we?
‘This sort of politically correct nonsense helps no one.’
Kent Police defended the guidelines.
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge said: ‘It is important that Kent Police recognises and values fundamental human rights and provides services that meet the changing and diverse needs of Kent’s communities, visitors and our workforce.
‘One of our core values is that we will treat everyone with fairness, respect and dignity.
‘As such we need to ensure officers and staff have an understanding and awareness of some of the faiths and ethnicities found in Kent so that they can engage more sensitively with, and have more confidence in, the various cultural and faith backgrounds.
‘In doing so it will help provide the most appropriate and professional services to those people.’