Sex dolls come to aid of poor Polish police

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HELLO, hello, hello, what's this, then? Something peculiar is going on at the main training centre for Polish policemen in Legionowo, outside Warsaw. In an effort to teach the rookies how to rescue people from car crashes, instructors are using inflatable rubber sex dolls as victims in simulated accidents.

True, the training centre has to date acquired only four dummies from the local sex shop. That hardly seems enough to cater for the 5,000 rookies a year. But given Poland's headlong gallop towards a market economy, and given the boom in sex shops all over the country in the last four years, it may be only a matter of time before every trainee has his or her own doll.

Some recruits, and probably quite a few veteran cops from the Communist period, may feel that the image of the police will take a dent once the Polish public hears about the new training techniques. When they signed up for the course, the would-be law-enforcers may have thought that they would devote more time to practising their forehand truncheon smash.

However, police budgets are so tight that there is no money for new uniforms or weapons. The police and road rescue services say they need 4bn zlotys (pounds 125,000) to buy new equipment, but cash is lacking.

Some Poles may wonder how, in that case, the training centre managed to find the money for the four dolls. Did they get a discount for a bulk purchase? Were the dummies shop-soiled, or had they once belonged to a previous owner? Did the sex shop offer a bargain price in return for some undisclosed favour?

No one is saying. But as a reporter for Warsaw's TV Polonia satellite service observed: 'The times are such that you have to cope as best you can. The training session might have looked funny, but the whole situation illustrates how imaginative policemen are.'