Costs questioned over 5,532 police interpreter requests for help in 75 languages
Police had requests for interpreters able to translate 75 different languages in West Yorkshire during the last year, force statistics have revealed.
They were wanted to help officers communicate with suspects, victims and witnesses during their investigations, with 95 requests made for British Sign Language translation.
Interpreters were requested on 5,532 occasions during the year, with the top ten most commonly requested languages accounting for around 80 per cent of the total.
West Yorkshire Police would not discuss costs of the service on the grounds of commercial sensitivity, but Bradford councillor Michael Walls, who is a member of West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Panel, said he would raise the question of whether the work was currently done in the most cost effective way.
An organisation called Capita Translation and Interpreting provides the service.
"Some suspects, victims and witnesses may speak English sufficiently to not require a translator, or make use of an intermediary other than a Capita translator.
"However, translator data is a useful local demographic source of information."
Cllr Walls is a retired police officer and said that historically the force had employed civilian 'liaison officers' whose duties included acting as translators for the foreign languages most commonly spoken in West Yorkshire.
Serving officers who spoke foreign languages were also used to act as translators in the past, he said.
Cllr Walls (Queensbury, Con) acknowledged that today's environment had changed, but questioned whether there were opportunities to utilise the skills of serving officers with a second language.
A force report states: "Note that requests for language translators are not necessarily a reflection of first languages spoken within West Yorkshire.
"The police cannot function without interpreters, they are necessary but I don't doubt the annual figure for providing them will be quite high," he said.
"We need to make sure we do this in a way which is the most financially viable.
"I would have thought there would be an opportunity to use police officers who have a second language to do some of this. That would be more economical. Also, if a police officer is on duty they are there immediately rather than having to wait for someone else."