After a previous traumatic experience with authorities and as an immigrant herself, Ladan Alomar, Centro Civico executive director, is working to prevent this sort of thing from happening in Albany. Her organization is among those working with the Albany Police Department and brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei of the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights on a new program that builds bridges between law enforcement and refugee and immigrant communities in Albany.
The Alaei brothers came up with the idea after talking to members of those communities.
“We observed new immigrants and we found recently there is big miscommunication and misunderstanding from society about police and from police about new immigrants and refugees because of some political messages,” said Arash Alaei, who spearheaded the program with his brother, Kamiar. “We thought we need to have a program to connect officers and communities to learn from and understand each other.”
The program has a $240,000 grant from Open Society Foundations, and will roll out once the funding is received around Jan. 1, 2018. In the meantime, the above collaborators— along with the Albany chapter of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus (RISSE), the Capital Region Refugee Roundtable and Trinity Alliance— will be working to geomap the density of immigrant and refugee populations around Albany and assess the needs of five yet-to-be identified communities.
“There obviously is a lot of fear in the immigrant and refugee population in regards to law enforcement,” said Lt. Melissa Gipson. “We need to be able to bridge that gap so there isn’t as much fear and they can report crimes and come to the police if they need help.”
Some ways the program aims to accomplish that is by further developing the language call line that officers use when communicating with non-English-speaking individuals, hosting cultural and gastronomical events to bond with members of the communities, hiring an individual within each community to work as a part-time liaison between the community and law enforcement, and providing cultural competency training for the police officers.