Cardiff , Wales

Language from the Law: The Cardiff E.S.O.L. Police Project

Cardiff Police Force

November 19, 2008

Police build trust through language and skill training programs delivered to new immigrants

For the past twenty four years, Police Constable Vince Donovan has been a member of the South Wales Police Service and lived in the city of Cardiff, Wales with his wife and two teenage children. His day to day role, involves providing support and reassurance for victims of racial, homophobic and disability related crimes.


In Cardiff, as elsewhere, limited knowledge of English, local culture and laws, make asylum seekers vulnerable to being categorized as both victim and perpetrator of new and unwelcome incidents by their new communities.

Police Constable Donovan also noticed that many of these individuals had an inherent fear of the police as a result of their past experiences. He heard stories about asylum seekers having been beaten, robbed and even raped by the police in their home countries.

“I felt it was so important to try and remove these fears and change their perceptions. I wanted these individuals to realize that the Police in the UK were friendly and would not pose them any concerns and for them to realize that the Police were there to protect and look after them, recognizing their vulnerabilities starting a totally new life” remembers Police Constable Donovan.

Looking for an opportunity to connect with this community, he approached Susan Morris, Cardiff English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services and together they designed a course to provide asylum seekers with an understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities, while building a relationship of trust with them.

The result was the first police-led ESOL classes for the newcomer community.

The Solution: Police ESOL

Police ESOL is a course that teaches English as it builds relationships between law enforcement officers and the new migrant community. It also focuses on providing students with practical knowledge about law and policing in the UK.

Designed as a series of 10, two-hour sessions, the course includes topics such as “An Introduction to the Police”, “Dealing with an Emergency”, “Child Safety in the UK” and “Driving in the UK.”

Each session is intended to give students confidence in the police, a sense of what they do and an understanding of UK laws, while developing core written and spoken English skills.

When the topic of “the police” was first introduced, students became noticeably quieter and tense. However, ESOL teachers continually emphasized that the police were there to provide students with the information they would need to live comfortably and safely in the UK. Each session also included time for the student to ask direct questions to the police and raise issues of particular concern to them.

“I remember walking into a classroom and seeing some men and women physically shake at my presence in the room. However, after engaging with them through the teaching sessions, I found that I soon had difficulty leaving since I had so many offers food and invites to homes for meals – all as a sign of their appreciation.” recalls Police Officer Donovan.

Building a more direct relationship between the police and the asylum community,would also help reduce the fears that have traditionally prevented racial incidents or domestic violence from being reported. For example, the practical focus of the lessons insured that the asylum seekers would know when and how to use the 999 emergency number as well as other medical and social services.



Police ESOL is an example of a program that provides new arrivals with useful cultural information, core language skills and actively looks to preempt potential community relationship problems.

The ESOL course was popular with students. Feedback showed that the classes succeeded in strengthening their confidence in the Police, their comfort in the UK and improving their written and spoken English. The women only ESOL classes that were held in primary schools were particularly appreciated.

Cardiff Police now encourage increasing numbers of officers to attend these classes and to share in the outreach experience. Following a successful pilot, the course is now being held at resource centres across Cardiff with lessons taught by ESOL staff in conjunction with community beat officers.

The success of this community policing initiative has been recognized and adapted by other communities. For example, Sheffield College has adopted the course for ESOL students at the community college who might be considering police related career options, adding a work placement and volunteer component to the program. Police in South Yorkshire, England are also actively encouraging ethnic minorities to attend Police ESOL training course.

Police ESOL also prompted the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world to create a citizenship CD and establish a websiteto help ESOL learners and teachers to explore citizenship ideas.

For related library resources on this Good Idea, see sidebar at right.

Making it Work for You:

  • Involving a broad cross-section of community agencies to support the integration of newcomers contributes to intercultural learning, builds trust and encourages civic participation.
  • Contact your local police force to see what community resources might be available to local schools and other neighborhood organizations.

For this Good Idea contact:

Vince Donovan Police Constable 881
Community Engagement Officer
Cardiff Central Police Station
Cardiff, South Wales Police, Wales,
02920 527 356

Recent Good Ideas

Leamington, Canada
From Survival Jobs to Rich Harvest
Highline Mushrooms  

Brandon, Canada
Industry Leaders Connect to Recruit Newcomers
Maple Leaf Foods  

Halifax, Canada
Welcomed in Halifax
Halifax Regional Municipality  

Toronto, Canada
Eliminating Barriers for Displaced Individuals
WES Gateway Program  

Kuopio, Finland
Encouraging Cities to Bring Locals and Immigrants Together
City of Kuopio  

View all