Relationships between law enforcement and AMEMSA communities became especially complicated after September 11th. Many of these community members were victims of hate crimes and racial profiling, and some were accused of being terrorists. Officers had difficulty building trust and often did not know how to do so. COPS commissioned Vera to help local law enforcement agencies improve their relationships with AMEMSA community members. Vera did so by partnering with three local agencies in:

  • Piscataway, New Jersey
  • Anaheim, California
  • Cleveland, Ohio

and taking the following steps to build trust in these communities:

  1. Vera contracted with local nonprofits to interview AMEMSA community members about their interactions with police, including difficulties with communication and crime reporting.
  2. Vera staff interviewed police officers about the challenges and successes of their current community policing and homeland security efforts.
  3. Vera used strategic planning workshops to share the information from both interviews with both communities. The goal here was to educate each group about each other’s experiences and help build trust and understanding.
  4. Vera staff further convened experts and facilitated dialogue to lay the groundwork for policies, practices, and procedures for interaction between police and unengaged community members.

The United Communities project builds on a previous two-year study by Vera on relations between Arab Americans and law enforcement in the U.S. following September 11th.