Bid to make police more PC

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IT'S the sort of language telly detective Gene Hunt probably wouldn't think twice about.

It has emerged police officers in Edinburgh and the Lothians have been given a language guide on what not to say in the course of their duties.

The guide warns against calling pensioners "old biddies" or accusing gay people of "batting for the other side".

The Appropriate Language Guide, as it is known, tells officers to avoid insulting members of the public or colleagues by using offensive terms linked to gender, age, disability, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The guide has raised eyebrows in some quarters though, with several of the instructions considered to be "condescending".

Critics say officers in a modern force would be aware not to use terms such as "Mongol" or "coloured" while dealing with the public or workmates.

The guide was produced by the force to compliment the diversity training course, which all officers and civilian staff have to attend.

Police chiefs said such training helped officers "respond appropriately when dealing with the diverse communities we serve".

Bill Aitken MSP, Tory justice spokesman, said the "condescending language" featured in parts of the guide "does nobody any favours".

He added: "There are complaints about police budgets, but apparently Lothian and Borders Police seem to have the time and the money to waste on politically correct and esoteric matters.

"They should cut this nonsense out and have a few more officers patrolling the streets of Edinburgh."

A spokeswoman for Age Scotland said: "We would hope that police officers don't need to be told that terms such as 'fool' or 'biddy' are offensive, whether age is an issue or not."

In one section, the guide sets out appropriate language for relations between men and women in the workplace, in a challenge to the chauvinist attitudes displayed by DCI Gene Hunt and his colleagues in the TV dramas Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.

It reads: "You should be aware that some people may not enjoy being referred to as "one of the boys" or "one of the girls"

and adds: "In a similar way, you need to be aware that terms such as "dear", "pet", or "love" can be devaluing and patronising, particularly when used by older staff towards younger staff. They are best avoided."

The guide also warns that terms such as "Afro-Caribbean" or "African-Caribbean", although used in the force's official documents, "can prove offensive to those of African or Caribbean ethnicity who have been born in Britain".

With regards to sexual orientation, where "phrases and euphemisms abound", the guide advocates language which is "direct, factual and, therefore, professional". It adds: "Phrases such as "a person of the other persuasion", "a woman with lesbian tendencies" and "he/she bats for the other side" should be avoided."

Carl Watt, director of Stonewall Scotland, welcomed the guide, and said: "Lothian and Borders Police have a track record of working to build trust with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and making great efforts to ensure everybody is treated equally and fairly."

Police chiefs were unable to say how much the guide cost to produce, but a police spokeswoman said: "The Appropriate Language Guide was produced by the force to complement the diversity training course that all staff attend."