Last fall, as Syrian refugees began to arrive in Edmonton, the EPS Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Section developed a plan to reach out to this emerging community. Beginning in January 2016, Sgt. Gary Willits and Community Operations Coordinator Iman Saidi met with most government sponsored refugee families and some privately sponsored families that arrived in Edmonton. This initial engagement helped establish a relationship with the families and dispel fear and mistrust of police – an attitude that is common among those fleeing unstable political environments.
“Establishing police legitimacy in the community is what makes it possible for our members to do their job” says Natasha Goudar, Manager of the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Section. “And the community gives us that legitimacy because we earn it. We can’t demand it from them.”
With the full support of Chief Knecht, this Syrian refugee outreach plan was developed into an Emerging Communities Framework that will be applied across EPS to help build relationships with all new and emerging communities from all over the world. As part of the work of this Framework, the Equity, Diversity and Human Rights Section has developed relationships with community partners who work closely with newcomer populations, coordinated staff training on the influences of PTSD in refugee families, assisted partner agencies with presentations and orientation classes for newcomers, worked with community partners to offer a Police Youth Engagement Program for young people from newcomer communities and helped with police investigations where a newcomer is directly or indirectly involved.
Photo: Chelsea Hawrelak, Natasha Goudar and Chief Rod Knecht accept the International Association of Chiefs of Police Human and Civil Rights Award with Will Johnson, Chief of Police of Arlington, Texas, and Chair of the IACP awards selection committee.