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Roma gipsy who fled Czech Republic is the new face of British policing

Peterborough, 5.4.2008 19:09, (Source: Daily Mail)

In a city affected more than most by Eastern European immigration, a policeman's lot is not a simple one.

But 27-year-old Petr Torak finds he has fewer communication problems than most.

He is a Roma gipsy from the Czech Republic, who speaks five languages – in other words, the new face of policing in multi-cultural Britain.

Mr Torak, 27, a community support officer in Peterborough, will become a fully-fledged policeman in August.

He said: "I absolutely love my job. It is what I always wanted to do and it means I can give something back to the country that has given me and my family so much."

Since 2004, it is believed that 16,000 immigrants have flocked to the city in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

The problem was highlighted last month by the squalor of "tent city" – dozens of homeless and jobless migrants forced to live rough on wasteland.

One school, Fulbridge Primary, has seen the number of Eastern European children rise from two to 100 in the last two years, with 32 different languages spoken.

Mr Torak said: "I believe my language skills make a huge difference.

"I understand the people from a cultural perspective and I know what they are trying to say."

He is fluent in English, Czech, Polish, Slovak and Portuguese.

He is also learning Russian. His wife Lucia is expecting their first child.

Roma are regarded as the poorest and least educated of the Czech Republic's 10million population.

They have historically been subjected to both official and unofficial discrimination and prejudice.

During the Second World War more than 7,000 Czech Roma were killed in concentration camps as the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia.

Mr Torak was 18 and a promising law student when he and his family fled the city of Liberec in 1999.

He and his mother had been viciously beaten after his father, a politician, protested against a wall built to separate the Roma from the Czechs.

Arriving in Britain, he had factory jobs before working as a security officer for Tesco and as a bilingual assistant.

"As long as I remember I'd wanted to be a police officer or a lawyer," he said.

"When I was given the job as a PCSO in November 2006 I was overjoyed.

"I love Peterborough. It feels like home to me. And my colleagues have been very supportive."

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Police said: "A number of officers have specialist skills.

"In the case of PCSO Torak those skills mean we have direct contact with hard-to-reach members of the community and can provide them with a better service."

By CHRISTIAN GYSIN
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