Two Polish police officers are patrolling the streets of Harlow in Essex to allay fears following the killing of a Polish man and a rise in hate crime in the area. The death of Arkadiusz Jozwik, 40, at the hands of a gang of teenagers is said to have left the town's sizeable Polish community "scared and worried", with Essex Police treating the attack on 27 August as possibly racially aggravated.
Three other Poles have also been attacked in separate incidents in the town.
Essex police took up an offer by the Polish state police to deploy two officers in Harlow to help reassure the community. Second lieutenant Bartosz Czernicki and chief sergeant Dariusz Tybura started work on Wednesday (14 September) and will initially be on patrol for a week.
It is understood that the officers will not have police powers but will be there in a community support role.
The town's district commander said their arrival had split opinion among the Polish community in the town, with some saying they do not trust the police.
Chief Inspector Alan Ray said: "The Polish government made the offer to Essex Police to send Polish officers to Harlow to help with community engagement and we thought that was a good idea.
"We welcomed them with open arms and they're now policing the town, not using any powers as such, but just on the community engagement side, to meet and greet the public and to reassure the community."
Asked if there has been any feedback from the Polish community, he said: "We've had mixed messages from the Polish community. Some are saying to us that, 'We don't trust police officers and that's from our experience from Poland'. Others are saying, 'We welcome these Polish police officers in'.
"And the experiences we've had on the street with the Polish police officers have all been positive. They've been welcomed by the community."
The presence of the Polish officers is "about reassurance in all communities", Ray said, pointing out that over the last year only 2% of victims in Harlow were Polish nationals.
The deployment comes as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker used a speech to the European Parliament to condemn attacks on Polish people in the UK.
"We Europeans can never accept, never, Polish workers being harassed, beaten up or even murdered in the streets of Essex," Juncker said at his state of the EU address on Wednesday. He added: "The free movement of workers is as much a common European value as our fight against discrimination and racism."
Critics accused Juncker of unfairly linking Jozwik's death to Brexit, with Nigel Farage saying: "I don't actually think that it's ever very wise to pick any one incident against an individual and to use it for political ends."
Harlow MP and Minister of State for Education Robert Halfon added: "The vast majority of people in Harlow and Essex are the kindest and most decent people and Harlow is one of the most community-minded towns in Britain.
"It's very important that people like Juncker don't give the opposite impression, having never been to Harlow." He invited the European Commission boss to visit the town.
A surge in hate crime was recorded in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the wake of the EU referendum vote and, although incident numbers have since dipped, they still remain higher than at the same time last year.
The National Police Chiefs' Council's figures show a 49% rise in incidents to 1,863 in the last week of July compared with the same time the previous year. The week after the vote saw a 58% increase in incidents to 1,787.
Meanwhile, between August 5 and 18, forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland logged 2,778 hate crimes, a fall of 479 on the previous fortnight, but a 14% increase on the equivalent period last year.
One incident last week saw a Polish man attacked and beaten by a group of up to 20 teenagers in a suspected racially-aggravated assault in Leeds.
Responding to Juncker's comments, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokeswoman said "we need to let the police investigations take their course", adding: "The Prime Minister has herself already expressed concern about hate crime in this country.
"That's why the government has set out an action plan. As we said last week, the Prime Minister has spoken to the Polish prime minister about some of the incidents we have seen.
"Of course, we need to let the police investigations take their course, but the Prime Minister is absolutely clear about the values that make this country great – we are a tolerant nation and we should continue to be one."
Six teenagers, aged 15 and 16, have been arrested, and released on bail, in connection with Jozwik's death.