ESSEX Police have spent almost £1million on interpreters in the past two years, the Gazette can reveal.

The cost of translation has risen from £471,223 in 2005/6 to £527,510 in 2006/7, a Freedom of Information inquiry revealed.

The cost for 2007/8 is expected to be more than £500,000.

The highest spend in recent months has been on the translation of Eastern European languages.

Other forces, such as Cambridgeshire, have dem-anded funding for more officers on the beat to enable them to cope with the range of different nationalities living in their areas.

Derek Benson, Assistant Chief Constable of Essex Police, said: "Like other areas, Essex has experienced a growth in new communities.

"Essex has two major international entry points into the country, with Harwich port and Stansted airport providing good access to the county and beyond.

"In keeping with the trend across other forces, Essex Police has seen an increase in the amount spent on using interpreters and translation services.

"It is important to note that these services are used for both suspects of criminal activity as well as victims and witnesses."

Ian Robertson, who serves on Essex Police Authority, said his main concern was not the cost but the amount of time spent waiting for translators and, then, the process of relaying information.

He said: "About six weeks ago I was out in a patrol car with police officers and they stopped and picked up what turned out to be a drunk driver.

"He certainly had major trouble speaking English and we had to spend about an hour-and-a-half in the police station waiting for and translating with an interpreter.

"What's worrying is it took warranted officers off the streets.

"I want to see these frontline troops out there in the high street and on the roads, policing."