United Communities

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The United Communities project builds law enforcement’s capacity to engage Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities in preventing crime. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has funded Vera to partner with three law enforcement agencies and explore the challenges and opportunities of working with AMEMSA communities to support homeland security goals. The project will generate information and resources relevant to community-policing activities in other jurisdictions.

The United Communities project was launched to strengthen police-immigrant relations and help prevent crime. The project aims to raise officers’ awareness about how heightened immigration enforcement and activities designed to protect domestic security affect Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. In each jurisdiction selected, Vera will contract with nonprofit organizations and train their staff to interview members of AMEMSA communities about their interactions with law enforcement as well as barriers to communicating with police and reporting crime. Vera staff will interview officers about the challenges and successes of carrying out community policing activities and advancing homeland security priorities.

After analyzing the information gathered from police personnel and community members, Vera researchers will share their findings with members of the law enforcement agency and AMEMSA community representatives through strategic planning workshops. The goals of each workshop will be to educate participants about one another’s experiences, help build trust, and develop a road map for improving collaboration between these groups. Project staff will convene experts and facilitate meaningful dialogue in an effort to lay the groundwork for creating policies, practices, and procedures for interactions between police and disengaged community members. To disseminate the lessons learned from the United Communities project, Vera will publish a report and conduct a companion webinar as resources for other law enforcement and justice agencies.

How can police-immigrant partnerships improve homeland security?

The events of September 11, 2001, complicated the nature of law enforcement interactions with  Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant communities. Many people in these communities were victims of hate crimes and racial profiling; some were identified as terrorism suspects. Even when police understand that communication and collaboration with immigrant communities can strengthen counterterrorism efforts, many agencies do not know how to begin to engage with people who are wary of the authorities. This project seeks to bridge gaps between law enforcement and disengaged  Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities and create tools that will help build lasting partnerships to enhance public safety.

United Communities builds upon the findings of Vera’s two-year study of relations between Arab Americans and law enforcement in the United States following September 11, 2001.

For more information about the United Communities project, contact Susan Shah.

Featured Expert

Program Director, Center on Immigration and Justice