By Minal Singh
Northwest Asian Weekly
In light of current debates surrounding the Ferguson trial and Obama’s recent address on immigration, local Seattle officials and government leaders understand the need for better communication between the police and the community they protect. Senator Pramila Jayapal of Seattle’s 37th district told Seattle Weekly she is looking into legislation regarding guns. “I’m interested to know if there is a role for state government to play around de-escalation training and mandating a certain set of steps someone has to go through before they can use a gun,” she said. Further, Jayapal urges that the city needs “to focus on people who are falling through the cracks.”
Cuc Vu, Director, Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, spoke on HuffPost Live on Dec. 3 about the Seattle community’s relationship with law enforcement and OIRA’s recent initiative that brought together female Seattle police officers and women refugees new to the city in order to forge a better understanding. This eight-week mentorship program paired 20 Seattle officers and refugees from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burma, and Bhutan. Mayor Ed Murray and Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole showed their support by attending the graduation that took place at the Jefferson Community Center last week.
Vu called this initiative a “huge success.” The program revealed that the refugee women are concerned about language barriers, which is a daunting problem considering the Seattle area counts 189 languages in their public schools. As well, the program helped reduce the immigrants’ fears regarding the police, which stem from an awareness of the ambiguity of their rights and past experience with law enforcement in their home country. Vu suggests that Seattle might consider a future initiative that would bring together young black men with male Seattle officers in order to start a dialogue. By creating spaces where an open exchange is fostered, people can get to know each other in a spirit of safety. This is about “rebuilding trust” Vu said. (end)
Minal Singh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.