- Associated Press - Monday, April 25, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - An Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department program is encouraging officer engagement with immigrant communities.

About 50 Burmese youths from the Falam Baptist Church of Indiana participated Saturday in a demonstration in the IMPD and Me program, The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1pxWs8L ) reported. They met with police officers, learned what to do in a traffic stop and took notes from the bomb squad.

Authorities believe they will be able to improve police-community relations through active cultural outreach.

Earlier this month, Indianapolis Police Chief Troy Riggs told the newspaper that he was concerned about how his department can address the city’s growing immigrant communities. He added that immigrant involvement in policing “helps us with some of the cultural issues that we have at times when we’re trying to investigate crimes or investigate victims.”

Forty groups have participated in the IMPD and Me program over the past three years.

Indianapolis officer Candi Perry said the program has helped the department monitor the city’s smaller communities more effectively. She said community policing has made the department seem more trustworthy, which encourages immigrants to call when there’s an issue, so the program’s success is measured by calls.

“There’s a freedom in conversation that wasn’t there before,” the officer said.

The city’s Immigrant Welcome Center has supported the department’s immigrant outreach programs for years, according to the center’s executive director, Terri Downs. She said it can be hard for officers to foster meaningful relationships with refugee populations, many of whom come from places where people fear police, due to their previous experiences.

“It’s very, very difficult to gain the trust of them from a person in uniform, because of the number of military governments throughout the world that would jail people,” Downs said. “(The IMPD officers) recognize the importance of coming to them and bringing them in and saying, ‘We are your friends.’”

Perry said inviting immigrant communities to visit to the police department has helped debunk the negative perception those communities often have of police.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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